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Rock's Baffling Inscription May Finally Be Deciphered

2 translations point to a man's death off French coast in the 1700s
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 25, 2020 12:18 PM CST

(Newser) – A mysterious 230-year-old message inscribed on a rock at the base of a seaside cliff in northwestern France has been deciphered, at least enough to convey a tragic death. The town of Plougastel-Daoulas in Brittany, which offered about $2,200 to anyone who could translate the 20-line message written in what appeared to be characters from several languages, sorted through 61 submitted translations before deciding on the two most credible, per the Jerusalem Post. Both describe a death off the coast. Noël René Toudic, a Brittany teacher with a degree in Celtic studies who will take home half the prize, believes the message was inscribed by a soldier named Grégoire Haloteau in memory of another soldier, Serge Le Bris, per the Connexion. His translation reads, "Serge died when with no skill at rowing, his boat was tipped over by the wind."

Historian Roger Faligot and historical reconstruction artist Alain Robet, also of Brittany, have a different take. They say the translation refers to a man with "the incarnation of courage" who was struck and killed "somewhere on the island." The translations lend some insight into the message that has stumped local officials since it was reportedly discovered on a 3-foot-tall rock accessible only at low tide in 1979. Toudic came to assume the message, mentioning the dates 1786 and 1787 and accompanied by the images of a ship and a heart on a cross, was written by a semi-literate man who spoke Breton, per the BBC. Faligot and Robet believe the message is mostly in Breton, but with some Welsh words included. A panel of historians chose their translations over others submitted from as far away as the US, Argentina, and Australia, per RFI. (Read more France stories.)

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