Dating back hundreds to thousands of years, codices can reveal much about an ancient culture, that is, if you can decipher the text. Often written in an outdated language with unfamiliar grammar, these codices take careful analysis to crack their meanings. Some continue to completely baffle archaeologists and other scientists, while others have divulged just enough of their meaning to intrigue.
From an Egyptian book full of magic spells to a text written in an unknown language, Live Science takes a look at 10 of the most mysterious ancient manuscripts.
1. Liber Linteus
Preserved in the wrappings of an Egyptian mummy, this text is written in Etruscan, a language that was used in Italy in ancient times. Dating back about 2,200 years, the mummy and its removed wrappings are now in the Zagreb Museum in Croatia.
The text’s meaning is not entirely clear. It was “classified as a funerary calendar in the past, but nowadays, it is usually labelled as a ritual calendar, although months are only mentioned from column 6 onwards,” Lammert Bouke van der Meer, a professor at Leiden University, wrote in an essay published in the book “Votives, Places and Rituals in Etruscan Religion” (Brill, 2008).
In ancient Egypt, it was common for materials to be reused as mummy wrapping or to make mummy masks. Additionally, trade was widespread in the Mediterranean in ancient times, and it was not unusual for goods to be transported between Italy and Egypt according to ancient records and archaeological finds.