08 August 2015


Can you decipher these letters?
A medieval sword that carries a mysterious inscription has baffled historians for centuries. Little is known about [the] double-edged weapon, least of all the meaning behind a cryptic 18-letter message running down the central groove which reads: NDXOXCHWDRGHDXORVI.
Now The British Library have appealed for the public’s help in cracking the conundrum...

The weapon was found at the bottom of the River Witham in Lincolnshire in 1825, but it’s believed the 13th century sword originally belonged to a medieval knight...

The indecipherable inscription is inlaid with gold wire and experts have speculated the letters are a religious invocation since the language is unknown...

Anne Robertson reckons the letters may be the first from each line of a poem – something that’s been seen on other medieval artefacts. A number of people have picked out certain letters which had particular meanings in Latin at the time, such as ND standing for ‘nostrum dominus’ meaning our Lord, and ‘X’ for Christ. Harrison thinks this is the most probable idea so far 'but then it gets more complicated'. 'It's been suggested in the past that it's a relgious inscription and the sword may have been dropped in the river on purpose [for religious reasons] which was not uncommon...'
More details, pix and a video at the link.  I should probably carve TYWKIWDBI on something...


  1. "I should probably carve TYWKIWDBI on something."
    I'm on it.
    In an ├ętang in central France.
    Probably a sheep's rib.

  2. Yup. My first thought was that each letter was the initial letter of the words in a long sentence, e.g., NITTFAGMTCTTAOTC = Now Is The Time For All Good Men To Come To The Aid Of Their Country, or TQBFJOTLD = The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog.


    No, Don't xerox others xenophobic choices.

    I'm not sure about the rest. Someone want to fill in another sentence?

  4. neat - I have not seen one of those in years! that is one of the early programming languages (note all the XORs and 'Not D' and the peculiar X0X logical) on a pre-USB, WORM (write once read many) input device. note the handle for holding the device and the crosspiece to make sure that it aligns in the reader. you type in your code, then fill it with gold wire, so it is readable, then stick that whole thing in to the reader slot. the language itself was much more compact than APL - as you can see it had to be, due to limited memory.


  5. many letters. because I assume that x means the distance as space bar

  6. Jose Antonio Porras GarciaAugust 12, 2015 at 12:25 PM

    Se me ocurre. Podria ser una espada para ejecuciones y ser las iniciales de de todos aquellos a los que dio muerte?

  7. NDXOXCHWDRGHDXORVI. Translated by individual letters yields
    W 500 500 h 100 n 10 0 10 h 500 10 r g 0 r 6.
    Run that thru the smart people filter.

  8. Medieval Welsh for, "A jabberwocky always pays its debts."

  9. It is Viking for either "Excalibur" or "Property of the Lady of the Lake."


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