If you’ve got a knack for languages and a love of all things mysterious, it may be time to pack up your dictionaries and book a ticket to France. The town of Plougastel-Daoulas in Brittany, France, needs help deciphering an inscription in an unknown language, carved into a rock near a beach, that can only be seen at low tide.
Since the rock was found, no one has been able to read what it says. It might not lead to a massive secret treasure, but the mysterious message — whatever it is — is certainly intriguing. So intriguing, in fact, that the town is offering $2,235 to anyone who can decode it.
The inscription contains around 20 lines of text with some Scandavian-style letters, the carving of a sailboat and a sacred heart, and the dates 1786 and 1787 are also legible. Dominique Cap, mayor of Plougastel, told the BBC, “We’ve asked historians and archaeologists from around here, but no-one has been able to work out the story behind the rock. 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.”
It has been posited that the message was scrawled by a soldier, as the two dates roughly correspond to when the area was home to military installations. That, however, is only speculation.
In honor of Jean-Francois Champollion, the French egyptologist who deciphered the Rosetta Stone (currently on display at the British Museum), the contest has been officially called “The Champollion Mystery at Plougastel-Daoulas.” If you’re interested in throwing your hat in the ring, you must register with the mayor’s office, which will give you access to photos of the inscription. The contest will be open until November, when judges will look at the interpretations and choose the most plausible translation.