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Can You Identify This Mysterious Old Writing? (wnep.com)
112 points by unnamed76ri 55 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 84 comments

Here are the direct links to the not very high resolution photographs from the article:

[0] https://media.tegna-media.com/assets/WNEP/images/323b9a63-45...

[1] https://media.tegna-media.com/assets/WNEP/images/bdb99b5f-a4...

Do these photos and the way they were shown in the news not look upside down to anyone else?

Personally I get the feeling that they took a picture from the wrong side. Rice paper is very thin but I could be wrong, just my intuition.

Agree. It merits being looks from the other side. The angle of writing seems to indicate the writing was on the other side, but looking at the document it should be clear which side has more ink.

Or written by a sinister person (not pejorative)

Left-handed for those that need clarification. :)

I am related to a left-hander who hates being a synonym for evildoing, so now it sticks out to me when people use it that way :p

...when do people use it that way? "Sinister" in English has just the one meaning; the sense of "left" is restricted to Latin.

And even there, "left" is a pretty different concept from "left-handed".

On a different note, French for left is "gauche".

A few different English dictionaries include "on the left" as a current definition for sinister.

From American Heritage Dictionary 4th Ed. (En-En)

> sinister

> sin·is·ter (sĭnʹĭ-stər)

> adj.

> 4. On the left side; left.

> From Merriam-Webster's Collegiate 11 (En-En)

> sinister

> a. : of, relating to, or situated to the left or on the left side of something; especially : being or relating to the side of a heraldic shield at the left of the person bearing it

> of, relating to, or situated to the left or on the left side of something; especially : being or relating to the side of a heraldic shield at the left of the person bearing it

The bar sinister? Calling that a sense of the English word would commit you to saying that "vert" is English for "green", "gules" is English for "red", "or" is English for "gold", etc.

Nobody uses it that way — they use it to mean evil/wicked/malevolent, but then said relation will usually gibe "why yes they are very left-handed" so I have stopped using it that way lol

Instead of 'sinister', you could try 'gauche' or 'awkward' as terms for left-handed.

Trolling has been happening since the beginning of time.

In both cases, the left-hand side looks upside-down but the right-hand side looks right-way-up, as if the writer has rotated the page to always write on the right-hand page.

Seems likely they are right-handed, then (or, this comes from right-handed practices).

my apologies, this is the local news station where I live and they, like most things around here are behind the times hehe, it wouldn't dawn on them to get a really comprehensive and high rest images of something like this! Hell we've made shows like colbert multiple times to be made fun of :D

Thanks. The news station certainly isn’t helping anything with the quality of those photos.

Strangely the second page on both photos is upside down.

mynegation's, Tai Le call seems best, and 13of40 example of Palaung which uses Tai Le is currently closest IMO.

Looks like Church Slavonic.

It is not Church Slavonic, at least not in any type of Cyrillic script. Could be Glagolitic but this is extremely unlikely because (a) does not look like Glagolitsa (b) Glagolitsa mostly died out 7 centuries ago.

Tai Le? [1]

I honestly don’t know but I stuck some handwritten symbols into Shapecatcher [2] and this is my best guess.

Other handwritten examples:


My other guesses were Georgian, Armenian, or (though unlikely) cursive variant of aboriginal syllabics.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tai_Le_script

[2] https://shapecatcher.com/

Here's another Tai Le (aka Dehong Dai, Nɯa, Chinese Shan) resource w/images. [0] Many links, and a long list of related languages. [0]https://www.omniglot.com/writing/tainua.htm

Majority of speakers (>440k) in Yunnan province. "It is also spoken in northern Vietnam, France, Laos, Myanmar, Switzerland, Thailand."

That distinctive long, vertical u-shape is used in 5 vowels. (Reminds me of Voynich)

To anyone else who was wondering what Tai Le is:

The Tai Le script, or Dehong Dai script, is a Brahmic script used to write the Tai Nüa language spoken by the Tai Nua people of south-central Yunnan, China

Nice, Tai Le looks really close!

I first thought it might be Deseret Cursive [1], but I don't think that's it either.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deseret_alphabet

Whoa I grew up Mormon and have never once heard of this script. Super interesting. There is so much Church history that they don’t teach because it’s weird in contemporary light, and this is a great example of that.

There is a ton of info about the church that isn't widely known in Mormon circles. The CES letter does a good job covering tons of it https://www.cesletter.org

yeah for sure, it's definitely by design. My family is quite deeply intertwined with the church, going back several generations, so it's always very interesting to see weird ways the Church tried to embed themselves. The state of Deseret and the Mormon uprisings are some of my favorite trivia to lay on people who aren't familiar with the Church and how wild it's history actually is.

Tai Le also has similar characters but some of them in the writing do no match the Tai Le Script alphabet. I.e. the cursive y with a dot in the middle or the character that looks like "-|"

May not be Tai Le but by now I am almost sure that it is one of the Brahmic scripts, but the list of languages using these scripts is extensive


I am Armenian and I can almost guarantee you it is not Armenian writing nor Armenian cursive. It almost looks like a mix between Arabic and Armenian.

It may be some Middle Eastern language..

We found some old Armenian letters in my family and it was really really hard to find someone who could read and translate. I don’t speak or read it but that was our experience.

Here what they looked like. It’s hard to compare with the low Rez but seems like not a match with this old Armenian..


Doesn't look anything like Armenian to me. Or Georgian (which looks like upside down Armenian)

" Access Denied You don't have permission to access "http://www.wnep.com/mobile/article/news/local/wayne-county/c..." on this server.

Reference #18.475f7a5c.1614399207.477243f "

https://archive.vn/Zpq3X if you want to read it

(11:38 GMT) I'm filing a guess of a tourist copy of the stories of Amir Hamzah, in early 20th century handwritten Javanese. I believe the image needs to be rotated/flipped so the hole in the paper is in the top left quadrant. Will post a reference when I settle on one.

At a minimum, the word at the right end of the 5th line of this document is also seen 8 lines directly below the black hole in the subject document, which is indeed photographed from the wrong side of the paper.

Can you read it? Definitely let them know - there is a news station email in the article.

This looks like the same text on the Voynich Manuscript [0] — only without the illustrations.


No gallows letters in this text, everything is a lot swoopier, I don't think they're related. Really wish Derek Vogt hadn't pulled his videos on Voynich and how to identify obscure writing systems.

I too miss those videos, as his analysis was the most compelling I've seen. For those who never saw them, there is a good summary of them here:


Obviously total speculation but the illustrations and chosen subjects there make me wonder if the document(s) might be Druidic of some sort, since "ancient Druids considered it profane to record their teachings in writing": https://llewellyn.com/encyclopedia/article/186

My impression of intense focus on oral tradition isn't that such groups had no form of writing but as something analogous to modern-day Sensitive Compartmentalized Information systems to prevent anyone in the out-group from learning in-group knowledge, like how the US government has "UNCLASSIFIED / CLASSIFIED / SECRET / TOP-SECRET / TOP-SECRET-COSMIC" etc. It would be hard to describe the exact physical properties of things like plants, animals, and space without writing and illustrating them, so maybe these are documents from one such group who didn't want the fruit of their scientific studies to proliferate?

Voynich, whatever it is, is internally consistent in its glyphs. There's only a small overlap between the glyphs (at least what I can make out as distinct glyphs... always tricky when you don't know what you're looking at) in this sample compared to Voynich. Probably just coincidental, like how they all have a glyph that looks like Latin lowercase 'b'.

It looks like Burmese to me... [1] or Javanese [2] , or some such Brahmic script.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burmese_language

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Javanese_script

Agreed. At the least, it definitely appears to be an abugida (or possibly abjad), and the letter shapes are similar to many Brahmic scripts. My first thought was that it looked kind of like Tibetan cursive but wasn't quite the same, and after some searching it does seem like some older Burmese texts also look similar, and Javanese as well.

But, some of what I'm assuming are the vowel marks are throwing me off, since they don't look quite right for any of the writing systems mentioned so far, at least based on the descriptions I can find. Someone mentioned that it looks like the paper might have been photographed from the wrong side, so maybe this is part of the issue.

Yes, this was my feeling as well. It is very rare that calligraphy in a left-to-right writing system will have letters slanted left. It may have been a photograph from the other side. Rice paper being very thin, it might not be obvious which is the right side.

It reminds me of Leonardo da Vinci’s mirror writing.

Unfortunately, all I get when I navigate to the URL is "Access Denied". It's a pity because at the rate we're going we'll have guessed most the known scripts pretty soon.

My own guess, sight unseen, is "Bird-worm seal script"... purely because that was the answer the last time I saw this question.

It’s geo locked. I had to VPN via US server.

Maybe someone at Miskatonic University could help?

If only there were some really good quality photographs. These are taken with an old mobile phone.

And all cursive writings looks alike from far away.

It could be an imaginary language. There are certainly stranger examples, like the Codex Seraphinianus: https://www.openculture.com/2017/09/an-introduction-to-the-c...

This reminds me of Deseret, the made up language by Brigham Young.

It was part of early efforts to make learning Mormonism “easier” for immigrants.

The alphabet failed to take on. Original copies of what was printed are rare.



Deseret isn't a language, it's a script for the English language.

(Which, if I may be so rude, is an excellent idea because the English writing system is absolutely bonkers)

Okay, spelling is bats, sure, but what's wrong with the writing system? It seems to me to be about in the middle of the pack.

As others have mentioned it might be the case that the paper has been photographed from the back side. Here are the images flipped horizontally: https://imgur.com/gallery/gv9HG1t

kaya carakan sih (javanese script)

Looks plausible. Do you know the language and read what it says? If yes, that would be conclusive.

No. I'm just passing by.

could be the Balinese script as it seems (to me) to be less loopy than the Javanese script. Both are abugidas and their alphabets seem to be organized just like Devanagari and scripts for other Sanskrit derived languages.




My guess too.

it is not gujarati language.

I've instantly identified this as a dnial-of-service attack on gullible pseudo-intellectuals.

Wow, crazy to see my hometown news station on Hacker News.

I wonder if it could be Russian cursive[1]. It looks like it's maybe slanted the wrong way though.


It is not Russian. Source: native Russian speaker with a knowledge of Russian scripting systems dating back at least 1000 years.

My impression was Russian/Georgian or similar too, but slanted wrong. Perhaps mirrored?

Not Russian, under any mirroring, slant, or rotation. Cannot be sure about Georgian - it uses completely different glyphs.

> Russian/Georgian

Looks a bit French/Korean to me.

Honestly, with the quality of the pictures, it could be written in cursive French and I wouldn't be able to tell (I'm native French)

They have to post high resolution images.

no, it is not Russian cursive

I would've said the Hebrew script, however, the diacritics are unusual.

Native Hebrew speaker here; this looks nothing at all like Hebrew, except for some characters having prominent ascenders and descenders that look drawn right to left.

Thai ??


It looks like cursive Yiddish.

It's not cursive Yiddish

The language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here.

Too pretty for that. High Elvish in a different alphabet?

The inscription within the One Ring to which the OP's quote refers was written using Tengwar, which is a script devised by the Elves and therefore "looks pretty" ;)

TLDR: And in the darkness, be sure to drink your Ovaltine!

I thought the responses here might be interesting but they boil down to "I've seen the Cyrillic script once, so I'm going to suggest that."

Humans are pattern recognizers... what did you expect?

It's doesn't look like Cyrillic, or Georgian, or Armenian, or Hebrew, or almost any of the ideas proposed by people who have seen those scripts once or twice in passing.

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