We’re big fans of riddles here at Popular Mechanics, from finding hidden turkeys to shipping apples to Bananaville to attempting to solve the hardest logic puzzle ever (keyword: attempting). But usually, we just test our mental mettle for fun. Now that there’s real money on the line, it’s a whole new brain game.
The tiny French village of Plougastel-Daoulas is offering 2,000 euros (around $2,240) to the first person who can decipher the code found on the town’s version of the Rosetta Stone, a rock that washed up on the beach a few years ago. Local officials say the human-sized rock—accessible through a path from Illien Ar Guen, should you happen to find yourself in northwest France—was likely inscribed in the 18th century.
As you can see in the photo above, the inscription covers one side of the rock and is written in capital letters, with two dates (1786 and 1787) and several drawings, including a sailboat. Those years probably match up with when French artillery batteries protected the nearby Corbeau Fort, says town citizen Véronique Martin in an interview with AFP.
Martin is leading the search for the winning code cracker. “This inscription is a mystery,” she says, “and that is why we have launched the call.”
So far, the townspeople haven’t come up with much. The rock might read “ROC AR B … DRE AR GRIO IS EVELOH AR VIRIONES BAOAVEL … RI OBBIIE: BRISBVILAR … FROIK … AL,” per a noble guess by the AFP, which for all we know might hold the key to life or lead to hidden treasure, but for now just looks like the etchings of a caveman practising his penmanship.
While the village is specifically targeting linguists and historians in the contest, any budding Robert Langdon can submit his or her best guess by November 30. After that, a jury will pick a winner—or at least the most plausible translation—and hopefully, put the mystery to rest.
Need some practice in the meantime? Try one of our insanely tough brain teasers.
Originally published on Popular Mechanics