Blog reader Declan Gilligan from Dublin has provided me a long list of facts about Irish crypto history. I used some of these to extend my Cryptologic Travel Guide.
The Cryptologic Travel Guide I created with the support of blog reader Christian Baumann in 2017 has grown to almost 150 entries. I use this site myself frequently. Whenever I travel somewhere, I check if there are crypto-relevant places worth seeing in that area. I hope that my readers find this guide helpful, too.
Crypto sights in Ireland
Ireland, though being a country with many places worth seeing, until recently was almost a white spot on my Cryptologic Travel Guide. While there are interesting stories about the crypto used in this nation, including Sarah Flannery‘s public-key crypto system and the breaking of IRA ciphers, crypto-related museums, archives, and monuments appear to be rare in Ireland.
A few weeks ago, blog reader Declan Gilligan from Dublin thankfully sent me a long list of facts about the history of cryptography in Ireland – enough material to write several blog posts about it.
What most intrigued me was the information Declan provided me about the so-called Ogham stone writing. After reading it, it became clear to me that I had to add a few Irish places to my travel guide.
Ogham stone writing
Ogham is a script used primarily in early medieval Ireland. Most Ogham letters consist of up to five parallel vertical lines, sometimes complemented with additional elements, which makes them look quite different from the (Latin) alphabet we use today.
It is an interesting question why Ireland needed a script different from Latin. One hypothesis is that the creators of Ogham wanted a writing system that would conceal secret messages from those literate in Latin. Other proposals stating that Ogham was actually a cipher have brought forward. If one of these is correct, Ogham is interesting from a cryptographic point of view.
When I learned obout all this, my main question was: Are there public inscriptions written in Ogham that can be visited and that are worth being mentioned in my travel guide? The answer turned out to be yes. There are even several hundred Ogham inscriptions throughout Ireland and the western coast of Great Britain – by far to many to include all of these into my guide. Declan recommended a website that lists some of the most beautiful inscriptions. The vast majority of these consists of personal names, probably of the person commemorated by the monument.
Another well-known group of inscriptions can be seen at Dunloe, Ireland. The inscriptions are arranged in a semicircle at the side of a road and are well preserved. This site is the third one I added to the travel guide. Check here for a picture (for copyright reasons, I can’t reproduce it here).
More Irish crypto sights?
Thanks to Declan, Ireland is now not a white spot on my crypto map any more. If you think that other Ogham inscriptions would be worth mentioning in the travel guide, let me know. And then, I’m sure there are other crypto-relevant places in Ireland. Any hint is welcome.
Further reading: The Langelsheim inscription: an unsolved cryptogram on a baroque altar