If stones could speak, what would they say? According to one rock in a small village in France, “ROC AR B…DRE AR GRIO SE EVELOH AR VIRIONES BAOAVEL.” If those garbled letters mean anything to you, you might find yourself pocketing a few thousand dollars in cold, hard, rock-deciphering reward cash … the boulder at Plougastel-Daoulas joins a cherished clique of untranslatable stones. In Los Lunas, New Mexico, the 80-ton Decalogue Stone bears inscriptions that still stump scientists and have even convinced some that the rock is a hoax. In Berkeley, Massachusetts, the Dighton Rock hosts elaborate petroglyphs that scholars have attributed to the Vikings, Native American communities, and one Portuguese explorer. In Calva, North Carolina, the Judaculla boulder boasts an intricate web of symbols that still elude translation.
Part of me wants this to be an (even more) modern-day Piltdown Man — after all, how hard can it be to falsify the age of a rock that spends most of the day “submerged by the Atlantic Ocean, revealing itself only at low tide”? The rest of me wonders whether all the rock-decipherers of the world have gone into hiding, or whether the profession fell out of favour along with tomb raiding and voyages down the Nile. (You’ll have to forgive me, I’m fresh off a visit to Turin’s spectacular — but, as always, questionably sourced — Egyptian Museum, to news that The Met will not rename the Sackler Wing.)