A tablet inscribed with the undeciphered Linear A script of the Minoan civilization

In this world of advanced cryptography, machine learning and plastic cybernetics, there are still ancient scripts which haven’t been deciphered. Codes yet to be broken, meaning to be unlocked, knowledge to be released.

The script of the Minoan civilization of Crete known as Linear A, in use from around 1800 to 1450 BC, hasn’t been deciphered. One of the earliest writing systems of Mesoamerica, the Olmec of the Cascajal Block, remains a mystery. The Harappan symbols of the Indus Valley civilization has been known since the 1870s, but no primer has been found. There are countless other known yet undecoded ancient scripts.

The inability to read each of these mysterious writing systems goes back to the same fundamental challenge: decoding requires relativity. To understand one set of rules depends on relating them to another already known set. Intelligibility is relative. There can be no scriptural lifting-by-own-bootstraps. No meaning is formed in a void, but is part of a web of interconnected meaning. Understanding lies in connectedness. Scripts cannot be deciphered because no equivalence can be established with other scripts. The links are broken, and the void cannot be filled. There have been attempts at approximation, but these are stabs in the dark, no more than guesses meant to describe what a writing system might be for. Relating it to itself hits a brick wall.

This is a disappointing fact but a great truth. To understand is to relate, to break into the room one needs to speak the language of the room. The key may be in the door, but the handle is on the inside.

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