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Monday, February 12, 2024

Something More About Kryptos



Several years ago, our blog touched on the Kryptos sculpture in Washington, D.C., and how solving it might be something Johnny Dixon could try to do while at summer camp. 

I was surprised, if not pleased, to see in recent months that, according to Austin Harvey, writing at All That's Interesting, more than three decades after its installation, three of its four coded messages have been solved.  As to number four?
In 1990, artist Jim Sanborn presented the CIA with a piece called “Kryptos” — a Greek word for “hidden.” And as its name would suggest, Kryptos’ meaning has remained hidden ever since.

According to Sanborn, the sculpture’s message deals with the CIA tradition of secrecy on several levels. It includes a system of ciphers devised by the 16th-century French cryptographer Blaise de Vigenère, known as a Vigenère table, among other codes which Sanborn created with the help of retired CIA cryptographer Edward Scheidt.

Of course, the difficulty of cracking the codes embedded in Kryptos have only added to the sculpture’s notoriety. And over the years since its introduction, significant chunks of the sculpture’s message have been cracked — though the fourth section’s translation has remained elusive.

Sanborn has received countless emails and letters over the years from prospective codebreakers, each hoping that they had finally solved the puzzle, but of course none of them had. As time went on, Sanborn decided to provide a few clues to guide would-be cryptographers.

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