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A French Town Will Pay You $2,250 to Decipher the Mysterious Carvings on This Rock

There's a lot of evidence that solving word puzzles as you grow older is a good way to keep your brain sharp, but honing that sort of skill could also be the key to fattening your wallet...

Local councillor posing with mysterious inscription | FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images
Local councillor posing with mysterious inscription | FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

There's a lot of evidence that solving word puzzles as you grow older is a good way to keep your brain sharp, but honing that sort of skill could also be the key to fattening your wallet. A town in France has been struggling to decipher a centuries-old inscription of symbols recently found on a big rock and is now offering a substantial reward to anyone who might be able to help them crack the mystery.

Who knows, those marathon games of "Words With Friends" you always get sucked into may finally pay off.

The village of Plougastel-Daoulas in northwestern France has been trying to figure out what the series of letters and symbols means, and they're now enlisting the help of the public by offering a $2,250 reward to anyone who can decipher it. They're appealing to linguists, historians, academics, students, and even average folks who've taken up code-breaking as a hobby, according to France 24.

The message was discovered a few years ago on a large rock partially submerged along the Atlantic coast, and it's only visible at low tide. The mysterious jumble of symbols and letters has since stumped experts, who can't quite pin down what the message is supposed to be about, or even what language it's in, according to Agence France-Presse.

"There are people who tell us that it's Basque and others who say it's old Breton, but we still have not managed to decipher the text," Dominque Cap, the mayor of Plougastel-Daoulas, told AFP

The rock, which is described as roughly the size of a person, has earned comparisons to the Rosetta Stone. And while its significance is unknown, the etchings do include a couple clues about what it may be about. It features a picture of a sailboat and the dates 1786 and 1787.

"These dates correspond more or less to the years that various artillery batteries that protected Brest and notably Corbeau Fort which is right next to it," said Veronique Martin, who's heading up the effort to enlist the public for help. 

If you're curious, this is what part of the inscription spells out: "ROC AR B...DRE AR GRIO SE EVELOH AR VIRIONES BAOAVEL...R I OBBIIE: BRISBVILAR...FROIK...AL."

Could it be a secret love letter? A message of military conquest? A long-forgotten meme from the18th Century ? At this point, any of those things could be true. 

The search effort has already received thousands of emails from folks offering to help, according to the Le Parisien, and if you believe you can offer some intel on the sequence, you're welcome to email veronique.martin@mairie-plougastel.fr. Eventually, a jury will meet to choose the "most plausible" suggestion for what it all means, and award that person money. 

h/tTravel & Leisure


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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.