History is full of obscure strings of text that serve as tantalizing puzzles for code breakers. From the Voynich manuscript to the cryptic codes by the Zodiac Killer, people have presented riddles hidden in what seem to be gibberish.
A monument, known as the Shugborough Inscription, attached to a large manor house in England displays a riddle that has yet to be solved.
On the grounds of Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire is a monument depicting a replica of Nicolas Poussin’s masterpiece “The Shepherds of Arcadia.”
Below that replica is a series of letters that appear to be without meaning:
D OUOSVAVV M
Nobody knows what this means, and history does not help. The monument itself was built in the mid-18th century, although some claim that the mysterious code was a later addition, as it was not mentioned in documents until the 19th century.
Over time, there have been various “solutions” to the seemingly random letters. Here are a selection:
- Admiral George Anson, famous for his circumnavigation of the globe, possibly encrypted an acrostic of a brief poem in Latin to the memory of his late wife. This verse translates into English as: “Best of wives, best of sisters, a most devoted widower dedicates to your virtues.”
- Another attempt to solve the riddle posits that the letters are acrostics in Latin for particular biblical verses.
- Others have suggested that the letters represent initials of noteworthy residents of Shugborough Hall and its environs.
- A standard of many mysteries, it has been suggested that the letters, once decoded, will tell the location of the Holy Grail.
- Someone has speculated that the code is actually in the Norwegian language, and that attempts to use Latin or English to crack the code are futile.
- And there have been many that believe that the inscription does not represent letters at all, but is actually a string of numbers.
All those who have failed to solve the puzzle once and for all are in good company. Both Dickens and Darwin attempted to solve the riddle and failed, leaving the mysterious inscription for later generations to unravel.