CRYPTOGRAPHY Lecture 9 Language as a cipher LANGUAGE • A foreign language is a great cipher – if there is no one who knows it. • We will talk about 3 language ciphers – Hieroglyphics (the Rosetta stone) – Linear B – The Navajo code talkers The first 2 examples feature unintentional encryption. The third example represents the successful use of an obscure language in a military setting. Rosetta Stone The Rosetta stone For centuries, Hieroglyphics remained a mystery. The earliest examples of hieroglyphics date back to 3000 BCE and were in use for the next 3500 years. Hieroglyphs were ornate writings suitable for temple and palace walls. Hieratic was an everyday script, in which every hieroglyph was replaced by a simpler symbol, which was faster to write. The Rosetta stone In 600 BCE hieratic was replaced by an even simpler script called demotic. Hieroglyph, hieratic and demotic were three versions of the same alphabet. Almost like 3 fonts. All these fonts are phonetic (but we didn’t know that for a while) The Rosetta stone These scripts were used for over 3000 years by the ancient Egyptians for every aspect of life. At the end of the fourth century CE this script vanished. The last samples of ancient Egyptian writing is seen in a temple inscription on 394 CE and some demotic graffiti has been dated to 450 CE. The ancient Egyptian scripts were outlawed by the Christian Church in order to eradicate the link to Egypt’s pagan past. The Rosetta stone The ancient Egyptian scripts were replaced by Coptic, a script consisting of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet plus 6 demotic characters to represent uniquely Egyptian sounds. Coptic script dominated and the ancient scripts were totally forgotten. The ancient language evolved into a language which became known as Coptic, but which was wiped out in the 11th century by the spread of Arabic. Any link to the past was lost. The Rosetta stone In the 17th century, a renewed interest in hieroglyphs was awakened. But all attempts to read the hieroglyphs were based on the mistaken premise that the hieroglyphs were semagrams – that each character represented a complete idea. No one was willing to accept or even consider that the hieroglyphs were in fact phonograms. The belief was that phonetic spelling was too advanced for an ancient civilization. The Rosetta stone The idea that hieroglyphs were picture writing was strengthened by the fact that even in the 1st century BCE, foreigners such as Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian, described the hieroglyphs in terms suggesting picture writing. A 17th century German priest by the name of Athanasius Kircher, an Egyptologist and cryptographer who wrote a book on hieroglyphs, explaining them as picture-words. The Rosetta stone The idea that hieroglyphs were picture writing was strengthened by the fact that even in the 1st century BCE, foreigners such as Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian, described the hieroglyphs in terms suggesting picture writing. A 17th century German priest by the name of Athanasius Kircher, an Egyptologist and cryptographer who wrote a book on hieroglyphs, explaining them as picture-words. The Rosetta stone So, we have a script corresponding to a dead language. Can we decipher it? No. If there is nothing to hold on to, we cannot figure out what the script means. The Rosetta stone In 1798, Napoleon was busy invading Egypt. Added to his military force were scientists, historians and draftsmen. In 1799, a slab was found in the town of Rosetta which had writing on it in Greek, demotic, and hieroglyphs. The stone was taken to Cairo, then to Alexandria. After the wars were over, Britain obtained the Rosetta stone and it moved to the British museum in 1802. The Rosetta stone The Rosetta stone The Rosetta stone has the same message on it in 3 different scripts. Greek Hieroglyphic Demotic The Rosetta stone Two of which represent a language no one had spoken for at least 8 centuries. Even given the message in Greek, how could that be used to explain the message in Coptic or in ancient Egyptian? The Rosetta stone Thomas Young was born in 1773. He was a child prodigy, reading Greek, Latin, French, Italian, hebrew, Chaldean, Syriac, Samaritan, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Ethiopic by the age of 14. He became fascinated by the Rosetta stone and started studying it. First he noticed a set of hieroglyphs surrounded by a loop, called a cartouche. He thought that this is looped because it represents something (or more likely someone) important, probably Ptolemy, the Pharaoh mentioned in the Greek. Thomas Young • Young repeated this process with another cartouche he assumed was the queen Berenika. • He identified many of the 13 hieroglyphs correctly. • Then he stopped. He did not seem to be able to accept that indeed hieroglyphs were phonetic. He explained that the ones he found were written phonetically because they were Greek names, so they had no real hieroglyph representation. Jean-Francois Champollion • In 1800, Champollion was 10 years old, and was introduced to hieroglyphs by Fourier. • Fourier explained that no one could read these hieroglyphs • Champollion swore he would some day. • In 1822, he applied Young’s approach to other cartouches Jean-Francois Champollion Now Champollion had the phonetic meaning of many hieroglyphs. A few more became clear when he was looking at a cartouche that, given his prior knowledge, could be deciphered as AL?SE?TR? Champollion was certain that this spelled ALKSENTRS that is, Alexandros or Alexander. All these names were still foreign, perhaps phonograms were only used for foreign names? Champollion focused on a cartouche containing only 4 hieroglyphs. The last two symbols were already known to represent S. So the cartouche read ??SS Now Champollion has a vast knowledge of languages and although Coptic was a dead language, it was fossilized in the liturgy of the Christian Coptic Church, which Champollion was very familiar with. What if the first symbol in the cartouche was a semagram representing the sun. In Coptic, the sun is RA. This would make the missing letter M and the cartouche would read RAMSS The use of the semagram representing the sun is an example of rebus writing, like BEE + LEAF = BELIEF But the big breakthrough was that the semagram representing sun had to be read RA (not helio, which would be the Greek)– which is the Coptic word for SUN. Now Champollion knew which language the hieroglyphs were in, could identify everything else. From then on, hieroglyphs could be read by archeologists. LINEAR B More ancient languages • After conquering hieroglyphs, archeologists went on to decipher other ancient texts, such as the Babylonian cuneiform and the Turkish Kok-Turki runes, and the Brahmi alphabet of India. • Other scripts remain for which there are no cribs (like cartouches) • Linear B was a Cretan script dating back to the Bronze age which was deciphered with no crib. More ancient languages • After conquering hieroglyphs, archeologists went on to decipher other ancient texts, such as the Babylonian cuneiform and the Turkish Kok-Turki runes, and the Brahmi alphabet of India. • Other scripts remain for which there are no cribs (like cartouches) • Linear B was a Cretan script dating back to the Bronze age which was deciphered with no crib. Crete Ancient Crete • Sir Thomas Evans was interested in the period of Greek history described by Homer in the Illiad and the Odyssey. • E.g. The Trojan war • Some scholars dismissed these things as legends, but in 1872 Heinrich Schliemann uncovered the site of Troy, close to the Western coast of Turkey. Ancient Crete • Between 1872 and 1900 more evidence was discovered to show a rich Hellenic period between 2800 and 1100 BCE • On the Greek mainland, Mycenae was the center of archeological finds. However, no form of writing was found. • Sir Arthur could not accept that such a sophisticated society had no writing. Ancient Crete Sir Arthur found, through antiquities dealers, seals originating from Crete, particularly Knossos. Knossos was home to the palace of the king Minos, the center of an empire that dominated the Aegean. Sir Arthur set out for Crete and began excavating. Ancient Crete The results were swift and spectacular. He unearthed a large castle. On March 31, Sir Arthur found a single clay tablet with an inscription A few days later, a wooden chest full of inscribed clay tablets were found. These tablets were baked by the fire that destroyed the palace. They were very clear and easy to read. Ancient Crete Three sets of tablets were found. The third set was the most recent The script on it was called Linear B. Aside from not having a crib, the main problem was that no one knew what language linear B was in. Linear B Features of Linear B • The direction of writing was left to right. • There were 90 distinct characters: – Purely alphabetic scripts have between 20-40 characters (We have 26, Russian has 36, Arabic has 28) – Semagram based languages have hundreds, or thousands of characters (Chinese has over 5000) – Syllabic alphabets have between 50 and 100. • So the writing was syllabic The language of Linear B • The script looked like classical Cypriot script, which was known to be a form of Greek script used between 600 and 200 BCE • But the most common final consonant in Greek is s, and so the most common final character should have been the corresponding in the Cypriot script. This is found in linear B, but not at the end of the word. • The consensus was that the script of linear B later evolved into the Cypriot script, but that the language was not Greek. The language of Linear B • Sir Arthur Evans was adamantly set against Linear B being Greek for another reason: • Excavations showed the Minoan Empire to be a powerful rival of the Mycenaeans, probably the dominant rival, so it did not seems that they would adopt the language used in Mycenaea. Classification of the characters in Linear B • Alice Kober, a classicist from Brooklyn colege focused on the structure of the language. She noticed that many words formed triplets, it looked like the same word appearing in 3 slightly different forms. It looked that the stem was identical, but there were different endings. This suggests a highly inflective language. • She assigned to each sign a number, so that even though she could not associate a phonetic value to each sign, she figured out what the relationships were. Classification of the characters in Linear B • Each sign was a combination of a consonant and a vowel sound. So you could have, e.g. MI BI MA BA ME BE MO BO A table of these values would show you that a certain character shared a vowel with another character, or that two characters shared the same consonant. Alice Kober died of cancer before she could go much further. Cracking Linear B • Michael Ventris wanted to crack linear B. He started with Alice Kober’s discoveries. • Each character is a CV combination, but what happens if the vowel has to appear alone? • He hypothesized that there must be some character for when a vowel comes in the beginning of a word. • He characterized all of these in a table. • Then he saw the words 08-73-30-12, 70-52-12 and 69-53-12 appear over and over again. He guessed that these must be the names of important cities. His table showed the 08 was one of those characters which only appear in the beginning of a word and represent a vowel. Cracking Linear B • The only city known to begin with a vowel was Amnisos so that 08-73-30-12 should be A – MI – NI –SO with the final s missing. • According to the table, this meant that 12, which represented SO was in the same vowel column and the seventh consonant row. • Two other signs, 70 and 52, were in the same vowel column, so they must end with an O sound too. Thus the second city mentioned 70-52-12 so it must be ?O?0-SO • What if this represented the city Knossos? Then we have KO-NO-SO and we know 2 new consonant sounds for the entire table. Also, since 30 and 52 were in the same consonant row (N) this was a sign that he was on the right track. Cracking Linear B • Next he looked at 69-53-12 = ??-?I-SO where 69 does not have the vowel I or the vowel O. The name TU-LI-SO (Tulissos) suggested itself. Now he had 8 signs, and each one of those gave rise to many others, because of the combination of vowels and consonants. • Finally, he deciphered the final words on most columns of figures, 05-31 as TO-SA and 05-12 as TO-SO, similar to the Greek words for TOTAL:tossos and tossa • But this suggests that Linear B was Greek! He did not accept that this could be true, but continued to pursue this line of reasoning Sounds in Linear B Sounds in Linear B • Using the table, he deciphered more words: poimen (shepherd), kerameus (potter), etc. • He also deciphered some phrases, with no problems. • He came to the conclusion that this must be a form of ancient Greek. • John Chadwick was an expert in ancient Greek and joined in with Ventris. Together they completely deciphered the script. • Now linear B tablets could be read – history revealed itself. The Navajo code talkers Language as cipher • One of the key Ideas is that you can only decipher a message in a language you know. • The Rosetta stone was helpful only because the Coptic language was kept alive in the Christian Coptic Church. • Linear B could be deciphered because it was in ancient Greek. Language as cipher • But if you don’t know the language, how can you decipher the message? • This was the idea behind one of the most successful cryptographic endeavours: the Navajo code talkers. Navajo code talkers • The Navajo Code Talkers, whose ranks exceed 400 during the course of World War II in the Pacific Theater. Have been credited with saving countless lives and hastening the end of the war. The Code Talker's served in all six Marine divisions from 1942 to 1945. • The Code Talker's primary job was to talk and transmit information on tactics, troop movements, orders and other vital battlefield information via telegraphs and radios in their native dialect. A major advantage of the code talker system was its speed. The method of using Morse code often took hours where as, the Navajos handled a message in minutes. It has been said that if was not for the Navajo Code Talker's, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima. • The Navajo's unwritten language was understood by fewer than 30 non-Navajo's at the time of WWII. The size and complexity of the language made the code extremely difficult to comprehend, much less decipher. It was not until 1968 that the code became declassified by the US Government. Navajo code talkers • The Navajo Code Talkers, whose ranks exceed 400 during the course of World War II in the Pacific Theater. Have been credited with saving countless lives and hastening the end of the war. The Code Talker's served in all six Marine divisions from 1942 to 1945. • The Code Talker's primary job was to talk and transmit information on tactics, troop movements, orders and other vital battlefield information via telegraphs and radios in their native dialect. A major advantage of the code talker system was its speed. The method of using Morse code often took hours where as, the Navajos handled a message in minutes. It has been said that if was not for the Navajo Code Talker's, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima. • The Navajo's unwritten language was understood by fewer than 30 non-Navajo's at the time of WWII. The size and complexity of the language made the code extremely difficult to comprehend, much less decipher. It was not until 1968 that the code became declassified by the US Government.