USC, Swedish researchers crack Copiale Cipher

LOS ANGELES — Scientists in California and Sweden have solved a 250-year-old mystery — a coded manuscript written by a secret society.

The University of Southern California announced Tuesday that researchers had broken the Copiale Cipher — the writing used in a 105-page 18th century document from Germany.

Kevin Knight, of USC, and Beata Megyesi and Christiane Schaefer, of Uppsala University, did the work.

They used a statistical computer program to decipher part of the manuscript, which was found in East Berlin after the Cold War and is now in a private collection.

The book, written in symbols and Roman letters, details complicated initiation ceremonies of a society fascinated by ophthalmology. They include making mystical signs and plucking a hair from a candidate’s eyebrow. The convoluted text swears candidates to loyalty and secrecy.

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