Ever since Man-kind could write, there have been hundreds and thousands documents written over time about various things. People wrote about deaths, what was happening during that period of time, and the discoveries that have made. Some documents have been extremely beneficial and useful for us in today’s society, but some have a little bit of a darker meaning to them.
Over the course of the centuries, documents have gone missing or have been left hidden from us because whomever wrote them didn’t want us knowing what they knew. They may have written about incredible things or secrets that were meant to never be uncovered-until now. There have been documents that surfaced that are extremely mysterious and creepy that are leaving people curious about their origin.
The documents on this list have been uncovered and are full of information, secrets, and deep mysteries. They haven’t been talked about or found until now and people are stunned by the secrets they contain.
1. Rituals of the Great Enlightened Society of Oculists
This text is originally called Copiale Cipher.
Image via: Wikipedia
Throughout centuries, secret societies helped shape the world in countless ways and have relied heavily on coded documents so that way their secrets were safe from the public. Their codes were so in depth and elaborate that it took modern historians over 250 to decode the secrets of the Great Enlightened Society of Oculists.
Christiane Schaefer and Wolfgang Hock were the first people to start decoding this unbreakable code. It all started when Schaefer was to start a job at Uppsala University in 1998 and as a going away gift, Hock gave her a 100 page handwritten cipher. Schaefer didn’t think anything of it, so for years it sat on her desk at home and was never touched or looked at. That all changed when she attended a lecture in 2011 on machine translation and she remembered that the decade old going away gift was at home.
Kevin Knight, a scholar from the University of Southern California, also received a copy of this text and the two of them started to work on decoding this cryptic text. The text consisted of random symbols, Roman numerals, and mathematical symbols that just weren’t adding up to anyone. They tried to figure out what all of that could mean, but as they continued to work on the cryptic code, but were often times left stump of what it was actually trying to say.
However, they finally realized that the familiar letters were acting as spaces in the text, and the other symbols were the actual letters and words of the codes. With that breakthrough discovery, they were soon deciphering the code from Germany’s Great Enlightened Society of Oculists. To know a little about this society, the Oculists formed in the middle of the 18th century and their most iconic symbol was an eye because it resembled human knowledge.
The majority of the society was based in a town named Wolfenbuttel and they were known to be part of the early exploration of early ophthalmology. The society performed eye surgery on the people who needed it and performed some of the first cataract removals, but when the scholars read the coded text they believed that the medical aspect of the society was just a front and there was more to the society than that.
That is when Andreas Onnerfors, who is an expert in what impacts secret societies made in the world, stepped in and started looking at the code. He interpreted that the newly discovered document was an indication that the medical doctors in this society weren’t really medical doctors and that they just wanted to see the world burn. In the coded text, there were multiple references to revolution and opposition to both the state and the church.
Further examination of the document uncovered that there was even a secret society inside of a secret society that contained secret rites and rituals they would perform on occasion. The inner circles of the Oculists had a pretty big claim in this coded text as well: they proclaimed theirselves to be the real founders of the Freemasons and declared it that they had done it as a joke.
This was a breakthrough discovery for the Oculists because they were never really examined until now. All of their documents had been given to Wolfenbuttel’s state archives in 1918, which made it difficult to examine what the secret society was all about.
2. Minoan Tablets
What Linear B tablet writing looked like.
Image via: Commons Wikimedia
At the turn of the 20th century, the Palace at Knossos was evacuated and one of the most fascinating yet puzzling artifacts that were left behind were a set of tablets that had an unknown language inscribed on them. Sir Arthur Evans was working on uncovering what the tablets mean, since there were enough tablets to fill a book by 1909, and he deciphered that there were two groups of languages on the tablets: Linear A and Linear B. Linear A’s language is a barrier that no one can break because of how cryptic it is, but there has been a breakthrough with Linear B’s language and people are now able to read the story told on it. It is unfortunately a sad story to hear.
By the year 1939, archeologists found evidence of Linear B language in Greece, but this unfortunately didn’t help with translating the language and understand the story the tablets were telling. Michael Ventris decided to take a break from his day job in 1952 for a year and dedicate all of his time cracking the coded language of Linear B. He dove into his work almost immediately and was working long days and nights to figure out what the symbols meant and he finally figured out that the each symbol represented a consonant and a vowel.
Ventris reached out to scholar Alice Kober to help him figure out what the language said, so she created a grid system that was a map of all of the symbols that was part of the Linear B language. As soon as the grid was created and completed, Ventris went back to his work and started to place all of the symbols together.
Ventris started to isolate words that only seemed to appear in texts from Knossos, and thought they were names of places people went to. This was exciting for Ventris because he soon figured out that the language was a version of Greek, which provided proof that Greek was in fact the world’s oldest living language. Because of this breakthrough discovery of what language was written on the tablets, over 4,000 tablets were now open for analyzing and studying to see what story was being told.
The stories on the tablets consisted of people writing down the livestock they took care of, which was shocking because we now know that they cared more for sheep and goats instead of horses and cattle, as well as the spices they used, consisted of lists of men, women, boys, and girls that had their job duties assigned next to their names, and held records of detailed information about ancient social hierarchies, industry, and economy.
Ventris’s contribution to the archeological world was extremely important, but it soon ended in a tragedy. Ventris was almost 30-years-old when he uncovered the hidden Greek language and he unfortunately passed away on September 5, 1956 when he crashed into the back of a truck. He will always be remembered as the man that uncovered the Linear B language and made a breakthrough revelation in the archeological world.
3. Plato’s Musical Code
Plato’s musical code deciphered.
Image via: News BBC
When it comes to Plato’s Republic, there is a central issue that revolves around it- it is the question of whether or not it is always better to take a just course of action. This particular guide is all about the morals and ethics of politics, making it easy for us to read throughout time. We have always been able to read Plat’s Republic, but people recently uncoded the music Plato put into the text.
Dr. Jay Kennedy, from the University of Manchester, assumes that Plato decided to use a series of symbols and hidden codes in his work, which is similar to what Pythagoras was doing with his work. What is this idea, though? It is the idea that music, nature, science, and religion all correlate together. Kennedy believed that Plato was doing this with all of his works and scholars have just been missing the idea for centuries because they never knew how to decode the message.
Kennedy discovered that at the end of each twelfth text, Plato added a group of words together that was related to his 12 note music scales. Where the textual note was located, there was indication that Plato connected ideas of harmony or dissonance in his music notes.
Plato was teaching something dangerous to people and that was that the universe was governed by scientific and mathematical principles instead of gods. People normally embraced new ideas of science and religion whenever they were presented with new information about them, so Plato took the liberty of hiding his teachings from the wrong hands and kept them coded in his texts. What Plato left behind, though, is considered dangerous to some because he shows that nature and science can go hand in hand with religion.
4. Hidden Text in England’s Oldest Bible
The hidden text in the oldest Bible.
Image via: Kopalniawiedzy
Nowadays, you can’t go into a hotel room and not find a Bible there. They are normally located in the night table draw next to the bed or somewhere else in the room that could be placed in plain sight. It wasn’t always like this, though, because translating the Bible to English was hard and crucial work and by the time Henry VIII had started re-writing centuries of religious beliefs that fit his needs comfortably and his beliefs, owning an unapproved version of the Bible could lead someone to a death sentence. In the year 1535, an official and authorized version of the Bible was released to the public and even had an introduction from the King himself.
Today, there are only seven copies left in the world of this Bible and one copy of the Bible has a series of annotations that are listed in the margins of it. This particular text was hidden from the public by text that was fixed to fit the Bible’s original pages. People tried to remove the pages of the Bible so they can uncover the hidden message, but it was nearly impossible to rip the pages out of the Bible without destroying it.
Scholars grew frustrated with this task and eventually turned to the Queen Mary University of London’s School of Dentistry so they could assist the scholars in taking long exposure shots of the hidden text. From there, the photos were then ran through a computer programming system where it would drop the printed text and leave behind the hand written text.
When the handwritten notes were uncovered, scholars discovered that some of the notes were instructions on when to read specific pages in the Bible on which specific days and which verses were associated with which occasions. These notes were written in English and it seemed that they were in relation to Thomas Cromwell’s later Great Bible.
It also seemed that it was an attempt to bring older Latin ceremonies together with new orders form the monarchy that were declaring religious ceremonies to only be performed in English and no other language. This discovery of handwritten notes in the margins is leading to the re-writing of the Reformation so people could see just how much of a gradual process it was and what actually happened during that time period.
To scholars amazement, some of the notes in the margins had no connection to religion whatsoever. For example, there was a promissory note from James Elys Cutpurse that showed he had promised to pay William Cheffyn of Calais 20 shillings for an unknown purpose. Researchers were curious about Cutpurse and decided to do extensive research on him, only to find that he had been hung in 1552.
5. Lost Treaties of Archimedes
Text under the book of prayer.
Image via: White Chapel Ghost Style
In the 9th century, ancient manuscripts that contained copies of work of the Greek Archimedes made their way to Constantinople. This city was thriving during this time because it was rich and was protected by anyone who had threatened to destroy it. Constantinople became a place where learning was a great advantage to everyone inside of the city and it was home to important documents and records since people knew they were going to be well protected all the time.
The thriving city of Constantinople didn’t last for long, though, because it soon came crashing down when Pope Innocent III gave his approval for the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Constantinople was destroyed and the handwritten document was transported to Jerusalem where it became overwritten over time. April 13, 1229 had become the newly assumed date that this prayer book, which was now written on parchment paper, was released and completed.
The reason behind the stripping and writing over of the manuscript was because parchment paper was scarce and was in high demand whenever it was around. Since the manuscript turned into a prayer book, it sat for centuries more until it finally turned up at a inventory of a Greek man living in Jerusalem and it was noted that it is property of a monastery at St. Sabbas.
In 1876, it was sold to Oxford University in poor condition. The book soon disappeared though and there was speculation that it was passed down to people to people in their own private collections and showed back up at an auction in 1998.
The new owner of the book has been left anonymous and has worked at Walters Art Museum where he took the book to see if there was any value to it. Over time, someone again stripped the prayer book of its writing by painting over them with gold leaf illustrations to try to mimic and forge a Byzantine document. After the art museum analyzed the book, it was able to reconstruct most of the obscured text and found there was a mathematical concept hidden within the text.
The mathematical concept was believed to be beyond the knowledge of the ancient Greeks- the concept of infinity. Upon further analyzing the book, it was discovered that there was a puzzle written on the book asking how many ways a 14 piece square could be reassembled, but there is no knowledge if the Archimedes figured out the puzzle themselves.
The pages that did have the gold leaf cover were a little harder to decode than the other pages, making the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lab came in to help. After using various high tech equipment, workers of the lab discovered iron in the ink that was underneath the other writings. Thanks to the machines and this method of decoding, people were able to determine the date the prayer book was complete and uncovered the re-used scribe that saved the parchment paper- loannes Myronas.
6. Codex Sinaiticus And Joshua, Chapter 1, Verse 10
The Codex Sinaiticus.
Image via: Wikipedia
The Codex Sinaiticus is the world’s oldest Bible dating back to 350 A.D. This Greek text is unfortunately in pieces around the world with more than 1,460 pieces located at The British Library, St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt, the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg, and the Leipzig Library in Germany.
As scholars researched the pieces, they concluded that four scribes wrote the pages of the Bible and as they continued to write it, they corrected one another and themselves and rewrote major parts of the Bible. This Bible is one of the two of the earliest Bibles that did in fact contain all of the canonical texts as well as containing some non-canonical books, where are the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepard of the Hermas.
Even though this book has the reputation of being known as the the first Bible, it is also the first bound book ever discovered. Even though there is a plethora of pages found of this infamous book and it has been digitized for people to read it, there are still various pages turning up. A British scholar by the name of Nikolas Sarris digitized the pages and discovered another page in an unlikely place: he found it in a photograph of a book binding that was done by a monk at St. Catherine’s in the 18th century.
Since he digitized this book, he was familiar with the style and size of the writing of the early Bible’s different scribes, so he emailed the librarians at the St. Catherine’s library and told them to take another look at the book, they discovered that he was right. The piece was the beginning of Joshua, Chapter 1, Verse 10, which was when Joshua addresses the children of Israel as they approached the promised land.
This ancient text was then used in the re-binding of other books and in addition to adding to the Codex, Sarris had some other leads in finding some other pieces of lost works. The monastery knew the monks who were in charge of the rebinding of the books, so they knew that they could find some other long-lost works hidden in other texts.
7. Scrolls of Herculaneum
What the scrolls looked like before being unrolled.
Image via: BBC
In 79 A.D. a terrible accident occurred when Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii and Herculaneum in ash. The city of Herculaneum evacuated in 1752, leaving behind a plethora of artifacts to be discovered. Among the artifacts that were recovered from the city, there were a series of scrolls found that belong to the resort’s massive library, which was dubbed the Villa of Papyri for its collection of over 1,800 scrolls.
When excavators found the scrolls, they had no idea what they uncovered so they either burned them to start a fire or used them for torchlight before knowing what they actually were. No one knows how many scrolls were burned before people started to realize what they were, and more were destroyed as they peeled them apart with knives to figure out what they actually were.
Other scrolls have been in the safe hands of conservationists who made countless efforts to unroll the scrolls without ruining them. Father Antonio Piaggio invented a machine that could successfully unroll the scrolls, but when they were finally unrolled they were as black and burnt on the inside as they were on the outside. However, Brigham Young University scholars obtained possession of the burnt scrolls and started to analyze them.
They held the scrolls under infrared light and discovered that they could actually read some of the ink that was under the burntness of the paper. Thanks to the advancement of multi-spectral imaging, scholars can analyze these scrolls without unrolling them so they don’t have to become more damaged than they actually are.
Along with reading what the ink says, the images show every fiber that is on the paper, and even though they could successfully see what is on the scroll, it became increasingly difficult to decipher what the ink is actually saying. There have been major finds, though; for example, one scroll is for the text One Nature, which is written by Epicurus. This particular scroll was thought to have been lost forever, so the discovery of it was extremely important.
A series of works from one of Epicurus’s students, whose name is Philodemus of Gadara, has been uncovered as well. These pieces from the student were thought to have been lost as well, so this collection of pieces were a fascinating collection of his prose and poetry. As scholars further analyzed the works, they concluded that it came from his personal collection at home.
Some scrolls today still remain tightly wrapped, making the ink on them illegible, but with the advancement of technology, a little bit of information gets unlocked each time a scholar works on uncovering what the ink says. There is hope that in time, we will be able to know what these scrolls say.
8. Thomas Jefferson’s Original Declaration of Independence
The original Declaration of Independence.
Image via: LOC
Thomas Jefferson has been known to be one of the most complicated figures in history and people are disheartened by the fact that we were all taught he was a revolutionary instrumental of the founding of America. We are all well aware the Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, but it wasn’t until recently that the Library of Congress’ Preservation Research and Testing Division did a scan of Jefferson’s original documentation of the Declaration of Independence.
The workers at this testing division found one change in particular that has made them believe it marked the moment Jefferson realized what everyone was doing when they were in denial of being ruled by Britain and were separating themselves from the country. As they scanned the document, they found that one phrase said “fellow-subjects” instead of “fellow-citizens” and even though it was a small change in the physical sense, it was a monumental change for the mindset of men who were working to free the American Colonies from the Britain rules. He condemned the actions of the British monarch and during his condemning, he made mention that the American colonies were no longer going to follow the British rules as well as be lead by other nations.
Scholars that have studied Jefferson suspected the change and have been looking for it, but thanks to the advancement of technology they were able to find the change on the original Declaration of Independence where Jefferson turned Americans from subjects under one government into citizens of a new nation.
9. Illegible Diary of David Livingstone
What the text looked like.
Image via: Livingstone Library
Two years before Dr. David Livingstone passed away in 1871, he became stranded in Africa. Even though he was stranded and it turned into a dire situation, he still continued to write as he sat and waited to be rescued. He specifically wrote about a massacre he was a bare-witness to, and a massacre that would eventually kick-start the end of the British government’s East African slave trade.
Livingstone started to record his first impressions of the massacre on the back of pages from the London Standard newspaper and with the only ink he had- juice from berry seeds. Because he had a lack of useful resources, his writings soon became illegible and people had a hard time reading what he had written about during his time on the island. Later on, though, he recorded everything he had written down on the island in his journal, which later became the main source for “The Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa- from 1865 until his death”.
Using a series of imagery techniques, a team was finally able to uncover what Livingstone saw in the heart of Africa by making the berry ink legible. The team recalls reading that Livingstone was terrified by what he witnessed, especially when armed slavers attacked a market in Nyangwe. He felt that his own companions were in on the massacre and knew all about the attack. Livingstone also took in account his failure to stop the massacre and deeply reflected on that in his writings.
Eventually, slaves who were liberated joined his group and the way he felt about them was deeply edited before the final copy was published. The new pages discovered showed Livingstone as a conflicted spirit who still questioned how to intervene with the horrors he had witnessed. He heavily debated on whether or not he should have intervened on the massacre and consistently went back and forth about his decision.
10. Black Book of Carmarthen
One of the passages from the book.
Image via: BBC
The Black Book of Carmarthen dates back to around 1250 and is one of the earliest books that is written entirely in the Welsh language. While registrars were carrying out the orders provided by Henry VIII to dissolve Britain’s monasteries, they discovered this book in St. David’s Cathedral and was rescued by Sir John Price and was later passed down through generations of families.
Eventually, it ended up in the National Library of Wales. After residing in this national library, this book has been fully examined and documented so that way people could know what is hidden inside of it. There are entries in this book that date back to early references of King Arthur and Merlin as well as the host of Middle-age era poems and legends.
As technology advanced and teams of people thought of new ways of reading the ink, they finally discovered some more secrets that were hidden in this book. They used UV lighting and high resolution photography to help indicate what is written in the book. They discovered that after the book was completed by the main scribe, it was past down to others to complete the book where notes and other additions were added to the margins, including doodles.
During the 16th century, the book’s owner erased anything that was associated with the original scribe after he had passed away. It’s believed that he took pumice stone to animal skin pages and where he didn’t rub off more of the surface layers, the new imagery helped discover what was originally written there.
In addition to a whole page dedicated to Welsh poetry, the team uncovered a plethora of doodles, drawings and illustrations made by the other scribes who helped complete the book. When this book is viewed under two lens with modern technology, you can see two faces at the bottom of the page with a fish on another page. They have also discovered other inscriptions in the book and strongly believe that family members had written them as messages to the other family members who were going to obtain ownership of this book. This book is a true living text that we have gained access to just recently.
These secret texts are truly fascinating and it’s amazing to see how scribes used to hide messages within their texts. It’s also amazing to see how far technology has come so we are able to decipher what the text reads and is able to decode secret messages on manuscripts. Documents are being found all the time that date back to centuries ago, so who knows what we’re going to uncover next.