Errrm…. yes, really. A few days ago, I discovered that the online Carrot Museum has a page dedicated to early depictions of carrots in manuscripts and paintings, which also includes a rather disbelieving section referring to alleged depictions of carrots in the Voynich Manuscript.

To add to the confusion, it turns out that medieval writers often got carrots and parsnips confused, so even if a Voynich root does look somewhat carrot-like to you, it might actually still be a parsnip and yet be referred to as a carrot. Or vice versa. All we can be certain of is that if the linked text does turn out to encipher some kind of carrot-related secret, it won’t be about ‘seeing in the dark’ (that came courtesy of the second world war’s Dr Carrot).

I ought to point out that the Carrot Museum’s virtual curators didn’t sprout this whole leafy conjecture on their own: rather, they relied heavily on Julian Bunn’s Voynich Attacks website, which has its own carrot-related page. The backstory there was that, while hunting for cribs in the Voynich Manuscript, Julian noticed that one particular label appears beside three separate plants all with carrot-like roots (one of which is helpfully painted orange), and wondered whether the label might somehow encipher “carota”. (Note that though Julian labels the label “okae89”, it’s “otaldy” in EVA).

It’s a good observation, particularly because the carrot-like plants are in the pharmacological section of the Voynich Manuscript which historically has attracted the least research interest (don’t ask me why, I don’t know). Anyone who wants something to work on within the Voynich sphere really should put some time into going over the two pharma quires, I’m sure there’s plenty else there that nobody has yet noticed.

However, at this point I have to caution any Voynich newbie rubbing their thighs with cryptological excitement at the thought of a carroty crib, that we currently have… zero evidence that Voynichese text is a simple letter-for-letter substitution cipher. So, even if ‘otaldy’ does genuinely encipher ‘CAROTA’ in some way, we can be pretty certain that ‘o’ does not simply encipher ‘C’, ‘t’ does not simply encipher ‘A’ etc.

All the same, Julian’s carrot crib may well prove to be a step in the right direction, you never know. You might even say that the past’s bright – the past’s orange! 😉

8 thoughts on “The Carrot Museum takes on the Voynich Manuscript…

  1. bdid1dr on February 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm said:

    Orange reely reeching fer subjec matter?


  2. Thanks for the mention, Nick 🙂

  3. bdid1dr on February 8, 2012 at 11:16 pm said:

    Julian, Nick:

    My face is burning — I meant no insult! It takes a while after my first cup of coffee of the day before my “thinking cap” is firmly settled on my brain case!

    If one reads the captioning on that picture of what appears, to me, to be a Kas tle, AND read the other word in the same-wise manner, would we not be able to arrive at some reference similar to Kar tle?

    Was there some word then that would translate to cartel?

    Keep on going on! I love a good puzzle!

  4. Don Latham on February 9, 2012 at 6:17 am said:

    Is it the general feeling that the substitution cipher is the Antaios of Voynichese decipherment; and a club rather than a carrot is needed to put him to rest?

  5. Don: Antaios is an excellent comparison, because he was invincible on the ground in the same way that the Voynich is (to all intents and purposes) invincible cryptologically. Lift him off the ground (as Hercules did) and he can be defeated – similarly, I think we have yet to find the ground where the Voynich is vulnerable! It won’t take a carrot or a stick, but a change in combat arena… 🙂

  6. Just to add to the list of known carrots: there’s one resembling a hairy carrot which is used as a fodder plant .. in the Yemen if I recall. (Can’t access files to check. Computer dead – I hope temporarily).

  7. And of course, there is the percentage of plants existing in earlier centuries of which little trace remains.

    The following article is both informative and sobering, I think,
    Abdalla, Michael, ‘Wild growing plants in the cuisine of modern Assyrians
    in the Eastern Syrian-Turkish borderland’
    It’s available as a pdf download:

  8. bdid1dr on February 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm said:

    I’ve been reading “A Brief History of Afghanistan” by Shaista Wahab and Barry Youngerman. I am stopping at chapter 4- The Birth of Modern Afghanistan 1747-1901.

    It’s all “downhill” from there on.

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