Codes The Guide to Secrecy from Ancient to Modern Times Wonderful Digest
Today, the primary goal of cryptography is secrecy, which was not the intent of such scribes discussed above. The scribe’s method of symbol substitution is one of the elements of cryptography that we recognize today. The use of sub-stitutions without the element of secrecy, however, is called protocryptography.Other scribes in later years did add the element of secrecy to their hieroglyphic substitutions on various tombs. Yet, even here, the goal seems to provide a riddle or puzzle, which would act as an enticement to read the epitaph, which most readers could easily unravel. The obsession with the afterlife and the pro-liferation of tomb inscriptions resulted in a propensity of the visitors to ignore the inscriptions. When the scribes tried to revive a deteriorating interest in their craft by making these puzzles more unintelligible, visitors to the tombs eventually lost all interest, and the technique was abandoned. Thus, although the scribes of ancient Egypt engaged in a sort of game playing involving rid-dles, included were the basic elements of secrecy and symbol substitution, so we conclude that cryptography was indeed born in ancient Egypt.These early rumblings of cryptography can be said to have sown the seeds that would develop later in various cultures. The ancient Assyrians, Babylo-nians, Egyptians, and Hebrews (whose contributions we will discuss in Section 1.2, along with their influence on biblical interpretations from a cryptographic point of view) all used protocryptography for the purpose of magnifying the importance of the revealed writings. For instance, the Babylonian and Assyrian scribes would often use unusual cuneiform symbols to sign off the message with a date and signature, called colophons. Again, the intent was not to disguise but to display the knowledge of cuneiform held by the individual scribe for future generations to admire. (The etymology of cuneiform is from Latin and Middle French origin meaning wedge-shaped.)Now we turn to some other aspects of cryptographic finds from antiquity.From ancient Mesopotamia, one of the oldest extant examples of cryptography was found in the form of an enciphered cuneiform tablet, containing a formula for making pottery glazes. This tablet, found on the site of Selucia on the banks of the Tigris river, dates back to about 1500 BC. Mesopotamian scribes used cuneiform symbols in these formulas to encrypt their secret recipes. However,later, when the knowledge of the formulas for glaze making they were trying to protect became widespread common knowledge, their cryptographic sleights of hand became unnecessary and so later inscriptions were written in plaintext.The Mesopotamian civilization actually exceeded that of Egypt in its crypto-graphic evolution after having matched it in its early stages of development.