Wednesday, April 9, 2014

History mystery: Kryptos - Mysterious Encrypted Sculpture

Kryptos, a mysterious encrypted sculpture located on the ground of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia was installed in 1990. It was designed by artist Jim Sanborn and its thousands of characters contain encrypted messages and out of its four messages, only three have been solved till date while the fourth section consisting of 97 characters still remains unsolved.

The first section consist of poetic phrase composed by Sanborn himself, while the second hints at something buried, the third section is from the archaeologist Howard Carter’s diary describing the opening of a door in King Tut’s tomb on November 26, 1922. The sculpture continues to create a diversion for cryptanalysts, for professionals as well as amateur who are keen on attempting to decrypt the final section.

The main sculpture is in the northwest corner of the New Headquarters Building courtyard, exterior of the Agency cafeteria comprising of four large copper plates with other elements which are made of red and green granite, petrified wood and white quartz. Since Sanborn installed the 12 foot high copper, granite and wood sculpture 15 years ago, it has been seven years now that anyone has ever made any headway in solving its code.

Kryptos – Hidden – Intelligence Gathering 

The word Kryptos is derived from the Greek word for `hidden’, while the theme of the sculpture is `intelligence gathering’, its most prominent feature being the large vertical S shaped copper screen resembling a scroll or a piece of paper which seems to be emerging from a computer printer, covered with characters of encrypted text.

The characters comprises of 26 letters of the standard Latin alphabet with question marks cut out of the copper and while the main sculpture consists of four separate mysterious messages, three have been solved. At the time of the installation of the main sculpture, Jim Sanborn the sculptor has also placed several other pieces around the CIA grounds with several Morse code messages which were engraved in the copper. One of the slabs has an engraved compass rose and a lodestone. Other Sanborn’s installations include landscaped area, a reflecting pool, a duck pond as well as several other unmarked slabs.

Kryptos – A Riddle Within a Riddle

Sanborn had worked with the retiring CIA employed called Ed Scheidt, who was the Chairman of the CIA Cryptographic Center to have come up with the cryptographic system that was used on the mysterious sculpture. It was Sanborn who revealed that the sculpture contained a riddle within a riddle which could be solved only after the four encrypted sections had been decrypted. He has provided conflicting information with regards to the sculpture’s answer.

At one point of time he states that the complete solution was given to the CIA, William H, Webster during the dedication ceremony and then again he had stated that he had not given Webster the entire solution though he confirms that in part two which says `who knows the exact location? only WW, who is referred to William Webster. Moreover Sanborn further stated saying that should he die before the entire sculpture becomes deciphered, there will be someone to confirm the solution.

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