No, we’re not going to “decipher” K1 with Palimpsest. Not yet.
By now it should be fairly clear to my readership that the mystery surrounding the sculpture’s creation, it’s authors, and cryptological impenetrability to this point, are all carefully scripted. I already exposed some of the flaws in the “Ed Scheidt” identity in a previous essay. I feel it is counterproductive to begin a new dirty laundry list of the manifold deceptions and shady characters that have been taken for granted to this point. The puzzle is beatable. The story? Not so much. The problem is that none, and I mean none of the information is real in the way we think it is, and yet, paradoxically, everything that “they” have said has been “true”. If we take our Morse derived passkey and try to follow in the footsteps of the contrived cast of characters that went before us, we may just as well stop trying to solve the puzzle. Very smart people have taken that approach for 25 years with no results, and the illusion that any sections have been “solved” for any part of Kryptos thus far constitutes its principal defense. The story we possess is an elaborate misdirection.
Our only hope of understanding how we may avoid the puzzle’s palindromic pitfalls is by forgetting what anybody else did. In the history of 20th century cryptology, and through it the rise of computers, software and the internet, the major advances were often made when performing work that was deemed “below” the abilities of more “competent” minds. In fact, Colossus, the first digital computer owes its development to this desire to automate such tasks. Thomas Flowers, a gifted electrician and engineer with experience at Dollis HIll, the UK’s central mail processing facility at the time, built Colossus from scratch, with practically no design engineering help but for the guidance of Bletchley’s gifted, but eccentric staff of linguists and mathematicians. His prototype was named after Heath Robinson, who was Rube Goldberg’s “opposite number” over at GCHQ.
The initial breakthrough in the Venona project, Arlington Hall’s version of Bletchley’s Tunny triumph, was made by Richard Hallock, An Assyriologist and Elamitologist (ed: I can’t make this stuff up folks). The future Hall of Honor member Genevieve Feinstein collaborated extensively. Later, yet another honoree, Meredith Gardner would further develop this work, leading ultimately to the exposure of the double agent Kim Philby, and his Cambridge 5 co-conspirators. All of this resulted from the analysis of what was thought to be a boring, mindless waste of time: attempting to find flaws in Soviet use of one-time-pads in practice through traffic analysis. This was not thought of at the time as high priority, and computers couldn’t really help yet. The vast majority of the work was performed by female cryptanalysts, often pigeonholed for seemingly dead-end, intractable problems like these, and the work performed by hand with paper, pencils, scissors and glue.
So the fact that you are not a trained linguist, mathematician, or code breaker, and never worked at any three letter agencies, likely makes no difference in whether you end up solving Kryptos. If it did, it would have been solved already. What can we do differently? For starters, we can start to educate ourselves. We are dealing with one of the last, great cryptology puzzles of the pre-computer era. 25 years of throwing computers at it have gotten us nowhere. It should be obvious now that Ed Scheidt has an artistic statement involved here too, which has been expressed ironically through the negative space: the gaping absence of any computer based, brute-force solution thus far.
Having deduced “palimpsest” from “palindrome”, by relating the significance of the concepts of “symmetry” and “reflection”, we are invited to explore the Morse in the other conceptual and symbolic dimensions before we enter the courtyard. So far, the dictionary has been a reliable guide, and so it shall remain our “source”.
A Palimpsest is a text that survives as traces of original ink from vellum or papyrus scrolls, which were subsequently reused by later scribes who recycled the costly material into new texts. The process involved cutting the scrolls into pre-defined lengths, and washing or otherwise effacing the previous text. The now clean sheets are dried and stacked at a 90 degree orientation to the original text. Four sheets were “gathered” at a time, by centrally folding the stack into a quire giving 8 leaves, and 16 sides. The quires were gathered again, sewn together at their fold lines to make a Folio. Four gathered quires would yield a 64 page folio. Alternatively, the pages were cut individually at the quire’s fold lines, stacked and sewn together at the binding to form a Codex.
The new text was often a hymnal or liturgical piece, relating to monastic worship, and recycling one large illegible (or inconvenient) scroll into useful quarto and octavo codices made practical sense to the industrious monks. Ironically, the contents of the texts remaining in palimpsest under these rather common and ordinary books, were authored by the great Greek and Roman philosophers, statesmen and scientists, and would have been quite radical and destabilizing to the Monks’ world view indeed if they could be read.
For example, in the Archimedes Palimpsest pictured above, the original text and diagrams of the scroll from which the pages were made are visible in certain sections of this 10th century codex in ordinary light (top). In the middle photo, imaged in the X Ray wavelength, the vertical orientation of Archimedes’ text running under the horizontally oriented monastic text is clearly visible. Through further Image analysis in the UV wavelength, more detail emerged, such as in the lower photo showing the graphic illustration of Archimedes’ Spiral. The various forms of imaging and contextual sequencing revealed the entire manuscript to contain three of Archimedes’ most important mathematical treatises: “The Method”, “The Stomachion” and “On Floating Bodies.” They were not known to exist, other than by reference from classical period commentary, prior to their rediscovery in palimpsest.
I suspect that Sanborn takes pride and satisfaction from the parallel: lurking under the foundations of ritual and dogma are often radical and destabilizing ideas. That is very image he intended for Kryptos- as an architectural palimpsest- with successive generations of strata built one on top of another. Underneath, hidden knowledge struggles to break the surface and be rediscovered. The implication is that this information is somehow present already underneath the scaffolding of contexts, and the core, original message is obscured by successive generations of overwritten text.
The following is one of only a handful of primary source materials relating to Kryptos that we have that is dated prior to the sculpture’s putative installation date:
December 15, 1989
Dear Agency Employees:
I am writing this letter to give you an idea of what I am up to at the Agency, and to explain those big tilted slabs of stone.
The stonework in the courtyard and at the entrance to the new building serves two functions:
First, it creates a natural framework for the project as a
whole and is part of a landscaping scheme designed to
recall the natural stone outcroppings that existed on this
site before the Agency, and that will endure as do
Second, the tilted strata tell a story like pages of a
document. Over the next several months, a flat copper
sheet through which letters and symbols are cut will be
inserted between these stone “pages.” This code, which
includes certain ancient ciphers, begins as International
Morse and increases in complexity as you move through
the piece at the entrance and into the courtyard. Its
placement in a geologic context reinforces the text’s
“hiddenness” as if it were a fossil or an image frozen in time…
The code “begins as Int’l Morse and increases in complexity as you move through the piece at the entrance.” To the best of my knowledge, there have been no solution attempts thus far that have taken anything into the courtyard from the Morse besides “Palimpsest”. Sanborn wrote the piece above 11 months prior to the dedication, and years before the disinformation campaign really got underway, and yet, it seems as if nobody to this point has been willing to take his most direct and explicit statements of intention at face value. I’ll cut to the chase. To this point, solvers have failed to account for three elephants in the room: what ancient ciphers?; why “palimpsest”?; and what are those extra e’s supposed to mean?
Let’s begin with the E. By translating the Morse in whatever direction necessary to produce a cogent word/phrase in each section, we discover that there are 32 E’s total out of 107 alpha characters. The guiding assumption that the E’s may have significance beyond either dots or letters, as some sort of contextual marker. Of these, 27 appear to be extraneous padding or filler, and 5 appear as parts of words like digEtal, et al. There are 75 consonants total, with 17 represented, and no J, K, X, or Z present in the text. The entire Morse installation alphabet contains 22 unique characters when interpreted as International Morse.
Relating the “palimpsest” theme, for which we have already demonstrated relevance, let’s ask ourselves a very basic question. Sanborn has explicitly stated that this “book” is a palimpsest. Arguably, we have one text which is covered up by another, with original text appearing in the spaces between the more modern text’s letters, at a 90 degree orientation. Ancient languages like Greek and Latin derived from Abjad alphabets like Phoenician, which did not include vowels. So in deciding which of the “texts” to “read through” to find ancient secrets, which is the ancient and which the modern? Hypothetically, the ancient code will not contain E.
I suggest we stop thinking of the E’s as padding or filler, and instead consider them as a covering text from a more modern era, on top of the “ancient” text. As scientists demonstrated on the Archimedes Palimpsest, if we could only remove the characters that were superimposed on the ancient text, we could read it easily. Failing that ability, we used imaging techniques involving the electromagnetic spectrum to make the invisible text underneath legible. Through UV and X Ray analysis, we removed the unwanted text, which provisionally speaking for Kryptos, is in the horizontal axis and represented by dots, or “E”.
Superficially speaking, if we remove all of the E’s from the Morse translation, and perform the same operation of identifying letters by their central positions in palindromes, the result is MAILPOST. My initial observation is that it is a compound word, where its constituent words: Mail and Post, have an identical meaning. It strikes me that “Mail” is the US English version of the concept, and Post is the identical concept in UK English. Mailpost is the only available anagram for a single, eight letter word.
Alternatively, the E’s represent the palindrome markers themselves, but in an abstract way. Have you noticed that each of the “lines” in the Morse “fractional phrases” seems to have an even number of E’s? That means instead of an “e” occupying the central position of these abstract palindromes, there is some “non-e” text “trapped” in the middle. In the vertical orientation. Remember how I showed you the “grid” solution in the previous essay? 1st letter, 6th, 1st, 6th, etc. It seems as if the number 16 is suggested by Sanborn as somehow important, after all when we lined it up properly, PALIMPSEST popped right out in the vertical axis. We have 32 E’s, twice 16. How could we make it so the abstract palindrome concept would apply to the Palimpsest crack, which we discovered in a vertical orientation? As above, so below my friends. Think about it.