Archaeology breakthrough: Secret code of French rock broken after 200 years

The mysterious boulder, located on the coast of Brittany, France, had baffled experts for years, who failed to reach an agreement on what the 20 lines of text translates to. Visible during a low-tide, the rock shows some French letters reversed, or upside down, and there are also some Scandinavian-style characters. The years 1786 and 1787 are visible, dating the inscription to around the time of the French Revolution and there is also the image of a ship and a heart surmounted by a cross.

In May 2019, the village of Plougastel launched a competition to decipher the message, offering €2,000 (£1,679) for the winning submission.

Mayor Dominique Cap revealed yesterday there had been two winners, who split the prize, after their translations showed “similar” stories.

He said: “We have two totally different paths but have arrived at a similar historical background, that of a sailor who died at sea, and a friend who engraved this stone in homage to him.

“There is still a way to go to solve the mystery completely, but up until now, the writing has been totally mysterious.”

There is still a way to go to solve the mystery completely

Mayor Dominique Cap

Both winners agreed that the inscription was made in remembrance of a man who died.

Noel Rene Toudic, an English teacher and Celtic language expert, said he worked on the basis that the writer was a semi-literate man speaking 18th-Century Breton.

The key part of his translation reads: “Serge died when with no skill at rowing, his boat was tipped over by the wind.”

The other winning entry was by historian Roger Faligot and artist Alain Robet.

They also say the text is written in Breton, but believe some of the words are Welsh.

Their translation reads: “He was the incarnation of courage and joie de vivre. 

“Somewhere on the island he was struck and he is dead.”

Local officials said 61 complete translations were submitted in the competition. 

Most came from France, but entries were also submitted from countries including the US and Thailand.

A panel made up of historians judged the entries, finding that the two winning theories were the most plausible interpretations.

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Earlier this week, archaeologists also made a “significant” discovery at Auckland Cathedral in County Durham.

Bek’s Chapel was a two-storey addition to the castle, originally built for one of the UK’s richest bishops Anthony Bek. 

Constructed in the 14th century, it was lost for 370 years after being destroyed in the First English Civil War of 1642, but has been uncovered once again by workers at The Auckland Project. 

The team of archaeologists, students and volunteers spent five months carefully unearthing the foundations of the chapel, including part of the floor, the buttresses along the sides of the chapel and walls that measured.

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