Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Kryptos is the name of a sculpture by American artist James Sanborn located on the grounds of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley, Virginia, in the United States. Since its dedication on November 3, 1990, it has been subject of much speculation concerning the meaning of the encrypted message etched on its surface.
The sculpture is made of red granite, petrified wood, and copper, and is located in the northwest corner of the New Headquarters Building courtyard. The name comes from the Greek word for "hidden", and the theme of the sculpture is "intelligence gathering." The most prominent feature of the sculpture is a large vertical S-shaped copper screen resembling a piece of paper emerging from a computer printer. The "paper" is inscribed with four separate enigmatic messages, each apparently encrypted with a different cipher. The sculpture continues to provide a diversion for employees of the CIA and other cryptanalysts attempting to decrypt the messages.
The message on the sculpture contains 865 characters in total. Sanborn has since revealed that the sculpture contains a riddle within a riddle which will be solvable only after the four encrypted passages have been decrypted. He said that he gave the complete solution at the time of the sculpture's dedication to CIA director William H. Webster, and that the solution has been held in confidence by Webster's successors.
The first person to solve the first three sections was a CIA analyst called David Stein, who solved them manually in 1998. In 1999, James Gillogly , a computer scientist from southern California, was able to decipher 768 of the characters. The remaining 97 characters are supposedly the same ones which have stumped the CIA's own cryptanalysts.
- CIA website on Kryptos
- Washington Post ("Cracking the Code of a CIA Sculpture" – July 19, 1999)
- NY Times Library ("CIA's Artistic Enigma Reveals All but Final Clues" – June 16, 1999)
- Wired News ("Solving the Enigma of Kryptos" – January 21, 2005)
- Elonka Dunin's Kryptos page (transcript, many pictures and further links)
- Bill Houck (shows decryption of sections 1 and 2)
- John Wilson's Kryptos page (lots of info and links)
- Patrick Foster's Kryptos page
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