A British academic claims to have cracked "the most puzzling book on Earth." Called the Voynich manuscript, it has baffled scholars, code breakers, and even the FBI for over 100 years—but Gerard Cheshire says ingenuity and lateral thinking was all he needed to unlock the text in just two weeks, the Guardian reports. "I experienced a series of 'eureka' moments whilst deciphering the code, followed by a sense of disbelief and excitement when I realized the magnitude of the achievement," says the University of Bristol research associate. To him, the 15th-century book—written in a mysterious code or language along with pictures of women, bizarre objects, and Zodiac images—is a kind of therapy guide created by nuns for a medieval queen who lived in modern-day Spain.
The book is a "compendium of information on herbal remedies, therapeutic bathing, and astrological readings" focused on female health issues for Maria of Castile, the queen of Aragon from 1416 to 1458, he writes in a new paper. He claims the perplexing words are written in "proto-Romance," a purported language pre-dating modern Romantic languages like Spanish, French, and Italian. But medieval experts are dubious, per Ars Technica: "Sorry folks, 'proto-Romance language' is not a thing," tweets one academic. "This is just more aspirational, circular, self-fulfilling nonsense." Cheshire admits he hasn't actually translated the 200-page text, only "solved the codex" and divined its purpose. He says translation will require more time and money, per Yahoo News. (Apropos old texts, a Bible museum made an embarrassing announcement.)