L' Ecriture Boustrophédon

Boustrophedon Scripture

Boustrophedon writing

The Boustrophedon script is a relatively simple cryptographic system , ideal for beginner-level treasure hunt design, however this cryptographic system can become complex very quickly. We explain here what you need to know about boustrophedon writing .

1- What is the boustrophedon?

The Boustrophedon designates a writing which has the particularity of alternating from one line to another, one line out of two is written upside down. The text follows a kind of furrow, from left to right then from right to left. The text flows like a snake.


Let's take a closer look at the etymology of the word.

Boustrophedon is composed of the Greek word boûs “ox” and of strophein “which means to turn” Like the layout of the furrows dug in the fields by the repeated comings and goings of the plows.

With the Boustrophedon, it is possible to reverse several lines at the same time, or to skip several. This mode of writing is regularly considered archaic. This way of writing is found in different languages, Canaanite, Latin, Old Greek etc.

2- The Boustrophedon in ancient Greece




ἐμὶ τὀρμοκ-
ράτεος το͂
σίο κρητῆρ-
ρητήριον κ-
αὶ ἠθμὸν ἐς π-
ἔδωκεν Συκε-

(Registration of Sigee)

The inscription is presented in two alphabets and dialects: Ionian then Attic, in the example above, we take the text written in Ionian. This direction of writing was in use among the Etruscans and the Greeks. Pausanias, describing the monuments of Olympia, consecrated by the Cypselides, says that among the inscriptions he has read, some are written in the ordinary sense, and others are in boustrophedon.

The oldest Greek inscriptions, such as that of the island of Thera, are not written in boustrophedon. The direction of reading goes from right to left, like the old Phoenician inscriptions, other writings coming from the Semitic block.

Solon's laws were written in boustrophed lines, during the testimony of Suidas. In the oldest boustrophed inscriptions, the initial line proceeds from right to left, but in about the 5th century. The direction reversed and went from left to right.

Boustrophedon writing has many irregularities. One of the best known is revealed by an inscription discovered in Prinaie, Crete in the 5th century. On this inscription, there is alternately a line that goes from right to left, then two lines directed from left to right.

3- Try the boustrophedon

The boustrophedon can be used in all languages. Practicing this cryptographic system is an excellent mental exercise. Let's assume that the language used is French. At first, you will write from left to right, then, when you write in the opposite direction, so from right to left, the letters will have to be written in mirror.

If you want to complicate the mission, you can go as far as the inverted boustrophedon . Not only does the writing start on the right and the letters are mirrored, but on top of that, you will have to turn the letters so that they are upside down!

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