— jeremy's solution —

Ancient script

"Half of man's wisdom is knowing where it ends."

Jeremy Brown, a programmer at Biola University with an MA in Applied Linguistics, cracked the ancient script on Feb 20, 2006 at 3:21 AM PST.
Below are the decrypted lines. They form the basis of yet another cipher.

Wisdom has built her house.
In the pathway thereof there is no death.
A prudent man conceals knowledge.
The horse is prepared for the battle.
He who keeps his mouth keeps his life.
He does not know that the dead are there.
The folly of fools is deceit.
Who hearkens unto me shall dwell safely.
A talebearer reveals secrets.
Her guests are in the depths of hell.
Hell and destruction are before the Lord.
Do they not err that devise evil?

Here's Jeremy's solution as submitted:

The phrases are written right to left. But each pair of letters is written left to right. There is a null-character that stands as a placeholder. There is a character that stands for the "th" combo. There is a character that doubles the previous letter.

Jeremy is correct. Shown below is the entire alphabet.

Alphabet 1 Alphabet 2

The script uses a writing style similar to boustrophedon (Greek for turning like a plowing ox). In boustrophedon, lines are written alternately left to right and right to left. The script uses what might be called inline boustrophedon: the writing is right to left, but pairs of letters are written left to right.

Wisdom has build her house

If a phrase has an odd number of letters, the first letter (on the right end of the cipher) is left unpaired. The goal is to avoid unpaired characters on the left side of the cipher, which is more likely to be attacked by code breakers.

A few other features were added deliberately to confuse the code breakers. Some letters like >< ("e") and || ("o") are digraphs: characters consisting of two symbols. This poses a challenge when a word is spelled backwards. If the code breaker treats each symbol as an individual unit, the reverse spelling makes no sense.

Word of creation 1

If the code breaker treats the digraph >< ("e") as a unit, the reversal makes perfect sense. Incidentally, the "word of creation" above spells "BECOME".

Word of creation 2

Other features include: a single character for the "th" combo and a "doubler" which doubles the preceding letter. Strangely enough, most of these features exist in real alphabets: Icelandic has a single character for "th" (þ or thorn); Arabic has a character called shaddah which doubles the length of a consonant; boustrophedon was used to write ancient Greek; and spaces were marked in many old languages.

Ancient script

With all these nasty "enhancements" the ancient script seems quite formidable, but, alas, it proved no match for Jeremy. Note that he did not have the book during decipherment, which means that he didn't see the additional clue: the word golem in both Hebrew and the ancient script printed in miniature on the cover.

Cover clue 1 Cover clue 2

Congratulations, Jeremy, and enjoy the $100!

Jeremy was kind enough to write a small Java generator which you can use to write your own messages in the ancient script.

See the Ciphers page for more information about the ciphers in the book.