French Village Is Offering $2,250 to Whoever Can Decipher Its Centuries-Old Stone Message

Plougastel, a small village in France’s Brittany region, is offering a prize of €2,000 ($2,250) to whoever can decipher a 230-year-old inscription carved into a nearby rock-slab.

Discovered just a few years ago, the mysterious rock is located in a cove accessible only at low tide. It features 20 lines of writing in a “language” that so far no one has been able to crack, two years  – 1786 and 1787 – as well as carved images of a ship with sails and rudder, and a sacred heart. Local academics have been struggling to decipher the centuries-old images for some time now, but so far all they’ve come up with is theories. Some believe that the writing may be in old Breton or Basque, while others think that whoever carved it into the rock slab may have been semi-illiterate.

Photo: Christian Dubovan/Unsplash

“We’ve asked historians and archaeologists from around here, but no-one has been able to work out the story behind the rock,” Dominique Cap, Mayor of Plougastel, told AFP. “So we thought maybe out there in the world there are people who’ve got the kind of expert knowledge that we need. Rather than stay in ignorance, we said let’s launch a competition.”

The village of Plougastel is now offering €2,000 to whoever manages to decipher the 230-year-old message. Linguists and archaeologists are invited to register for the challenge, called “The Champollion Mystery at Plougastel-Daoulas” (in honor of Jean-François Champollion, who deciphered the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta Stone), with the local administration, and they will be sent photos of the inscription. Hundreds of people have already signed up.


One section of this mind-boggling inscription reads “”ROC AR B … DRE AR GRIO SE EVELOH AR VIRIONES BAOAVEL”, while another reads “OBBIIE: BRISBVILAR … FROIK … AL”. If any of that sounds familiar, maybe you should give the Plougastel mayor’s office a call and sign up for this intriguing challenge.

Linguists and cipher enthusiasts should keep in mind that the inscription also features Scandinavian-style Ø characters, as well as reversed and upside-down letters. It’s things like these that have convinced some experts that the inscription was carved by a semi-illiterate person who wrote down the sounds of words as he or she heard them.


Entries in this unusual deciphering challenge end in November, after which a panel of experts will select the most plausible interpretation and determine the winner of the €2,000 prize.

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