Ciphers

“The first people to look at the Rosetta Stone thought it would take two weeks to decipher,” says Edward Dolnick, author of The Writing of the Gods: The Race to Decode the Rosetta Stone. “It ended up taking 20 years.”

Trending Today

Two Hundred Years Ago, the Rosetta Stone Unlocked the Secrets of Ancient Egypt

French scholar Jean-François Champollion announced his decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs on September 27, 1822

Experts were unable to pinpoint a cause of death, but three medical witnesses who testified during an inquest into the Somerton Man case agreed that his passing “was not natural.” 

Have Scholars Finally Identified the Mysterious Somerton Man?

New DNA analysis suggests a body found on a beach in Australia in 1948 belongs to Carl Webb, an electrical engineer from Melbourne

Literary scholar Vanessa Braganza suggests that Catherine commissioned the pendant design as "a sign of her conviction of her own enduring legitimacy."

The Secrets of a Long-Overlooked Cipher Linked to Catherine of Aragon

Henry VIII's first wife may have commissioned the design as an act of defiance during the Tudor king's attempt to divorce her

Ingeborg Hornkjøl poses with a piece of wood inscribed with Nordic runes. 

Cool Finds

Archaeologists Discover—and Start to Decode—Rare Medieval Runes

One of the newly unearthed objects, an inscribed bone, is the first of its kind found in Oslo in decades

The bold, brilliant Mary Wroth with a string instrument called a theorbo, circa 1620.

The Secret Codes of Lady Wroth, the First Female English Novelist

The Renaissance noblewoman is little known today, but in her time she was a notorious celebrity

A team of divers found this rusted—but still recognizable—Enigma cipher machine at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The Nazis used the device to encode secret military messages during WWII.

Cool Finds

Divers Discover Nazi Enigma Machine Thrown Into the Baltic Sea During WWII

German forces used the device—likely cast into the water to avoid falling into Allied hands—to encode military messages

How to Cipher Like a Soviet

See if you can figure out how the American code-breakers unraveled the complexities of the Russian codebook

In the spring of 2018, Angeline Nanni revisited Arlington Hall, where the Venona team got cracking. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Secrets of American History

The Women Code Breakers Who Unmasked Soviet Spies

At the height of the Cold War, America’s most secretive counterespionage effort set out to crack unbreakable ciphers

loading icon