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Mystery of Kryptos

The world is full of unexplained natural phenomena and unbelievable mysteries. Also, there are many puzzles invented by the people themselves. Such famous sculpture as Kryptos refers to such riddles, which is still not completely solved.

The text of this sculpture in the form of an ancient scroll seems gibberish, but in fact it is a coded message, which is one of the biggest mysteries of modernity. It is located in the courtyard of the Central Intelligence Agency of the USA in the city of Langley, Virginia. It is a copper sheet, twisted in S-shape, with a height of 4 meters. The sheet is pierced through by a set of letters – 869 Latin characters – 865 letters and 4 question marks.


Competition for the creation of sculpture for decoration of the courtyard was announced in 1980 when the CIA decided to expand the territory of the headquarters. The author of the original composition of copper, granite and petrified wood is an American sculptor Jim Sanborn. The construction well suited the mysterious atmosphere of the CIA, so the sculpture gained a victory. It brought a worldwide fame to the artist, after which he created several more similar structures.


The name “Kryptos” was formed from the Greek word “hidden”. And it really hides a mystery that still disturbs the minds of many cryptographers. All of them, including the experts of the CIA, were able to deal with only three fragments of the text. They are conditionally called K1, K2 and K3. In general, a sculpture comprises four separate enigmatic messages, but no one can decipher the final section of the riddle.

Sanborn said about the encrypted text that it was a coding system that would unravel itself slowly over a period of time. However, he lacked his own knowledge in the field of encryption, so he turned for help to Edward Scheidt, who was the former director of the cryptographic Intelligence Center. This unusual duet of two geniuses created such an incredible structure that doesn’t let sleep at night all the fans of various mysteries and the true professionals of encryption.

The ceremonial opening of the sculpture took place in November 1990. Then Jim Sanborn gave CIA Director (William Webster) a sealed envelope with the decrypted text. No one else could see the contents. Although later Sanborn said that he hadn’t given Mr. Webster the entire answer of the riddle. The author also confirmed that the entire sculpture would be deciphered after his death – “there will be someone able to confirm the solution”.


Cryptographers claim that the unraveled parts of the text can’t give any hint on the content of the rest of the cryptogram, and even make it more confused. The first fragment of encryption, K1, comprises a modified cipher of Vigenere. The unraveled text tells the following: “Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of iqlusion.” Word “iqlusion” comprises a deliberate error.

The author used a trick in the second part of the text – the symbol X between the sentences. This significantly complicated the process of decoding, but everything worked out, and thus, K2: “It was totally invisible. How’s that possible? They used the Earth’s magnetic field. X The information was gathered and transmitted undergruund to an unknown location. X does langley know about this? They should.Tt’s buried out there somewhere. X who knows the exact location? Only W.W this was his last message. The X thirty-eight degrees fifty-seven minutes six point five seconds north seventy-seven degrees eight minutes forty-four seconds West id by rows.” According to this message, WW – is William Webster and the numbers (38 57 6.5 N, 77 8 44 W) are the geographical coordinates of the Intelligence Directorate.

The third piece of the text, K3, is associated with the quote from the diary of anthropologist Howard Carter, who has opened the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. The phrase ends with the following words: “Can you see anything?”

The last part called K4 and containing 97 characters is still unsolved. The authors confessed that this part was made especially complicated. In honor of the twentieth anniversary of the creation of the monument, in November 2010, Jim Sanborn decided to give a hint. He pointed out the six letters from the 64th to the 69th, which formed the word BERLIN, the name of the capital of Germany. He called this word an important key to the whole sculpture. Though, it still hasn’t helped to reveal the mystery of Kryptos.

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