It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic “sight-restoring” ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least that’s what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.
In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.
The story has wide application:
On October 25, 2011,The New York Times published a story about the Copiale, focusing on Knight’s code-cracking techniques. A flood of media attention followed—along with hundreds of emails from people who claimed to have ancient ciphers of their own. In December, when I visited Knight, he had just received a picture from Yemen. Some Bedouins had found a stone with an unknown, squarish script. Perhaps Knight could tell them what it said?