Home News Vision Looking up: A UFO Rosetta Stone from the Aztec crash?

Looking up: A UFO Rosetta Stone from the Aztec crash?

Donald Burleson

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Donald Burleson

Special to the Daily Record

When a large disk-shaped object crashed on March 25, 1948 near Aztec, New Mexico, one of the civilian scientists called in to study the craft was physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. He examined a “sort of book” found inside the UFO, consisting of plastic-like pages filled with strange symbols that Oppenheimer said looked something like Sanskrit.

According to researchers — since nobody could make any sense of those symbols — they were sent to prominent cryptanalyst William F. Friedman for an attempt at decipherment. If Friedman was able to determine anything from that analysis, the results are still classified.

Strictly speaking, the problem was not one of trying to decode a message deliberately enciphered for purposes of secrecy, but rather the problem of reading a text in an unknown language. However, the two problems sometimes amount to practically the same thing, in terms of what one needs to do to solve them.

Support Local Journalism
Subscribe to the Roswell Daily Record today.

What was needed was a new Rosetta Stone.

The original Rosetta Stone was discovered in Egypt in 1799 by engineers deployed by French emperor Napoléon Bonaparte. A few years after the discovery, the hieroglyphics on the stone were deciphered by linguist Jean-François Champollion. This was a milestone in the field of linguistics, since it was the first time in many centuries anyone had been able to read ancient Egyptian writing.

The key to the decipherment was the fact that on the Rosetta Stone, the same message was carved first in hieroglyphics, then in Egyptian demotic script, then in a classical Greek script well-known to scholars. By examining these parallel inscriptions, Champollion was finally able to read the hieroglyphics, determining that they involved not only pictographs but also elements of phonetic writing, where names were spelled out according to their sound.

The problems Champollion faced, and ultimately solved, were no doubt encountered by Friedman in a bizarre new context, where the mystery wasn’t an ancient Earth language with which we had lost contact, but a language from another world.

Friedman, for example, must have struggled with the question of whether the symbols in the Aztec book were just pictographs or had phonetic qualities, too. Also, Friedman would have had to determine whether the script was an inflected language, i.e., whether it contained things like affixes to show different forms and tenses of verbs. Some extraterrestrial creature examining English language texts in the same way would notice the repetition of configurations like “-ed” and “-ing.” Did Friedman discover anything analogous in the Aztec UFO script? We may never know.

In any case, the prevailing powers in 1948 certainly did the right thing in sending the mysterious document to Friedman. As a moderately experienced cryptanalyst myself, I can assure everyone that solving the problem would have had to be a cryptological challenge, likely one of the most intriguing decipherments anyone ever tackled.

Perhaps in some ways, even without parallel passages in different languages, the Aztec book itself may have proven to be a UFO Rosetta Stone, helping illuminate a language from realms unknown.