The Kryptos Sculpture

Kryptos is a sculpture located on the grounds of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Installed in 1990 by artist James Sanborn, its 1800 characters contain encrypted messages, of which three have been solved. There is still a fourth section at the bottom consisting of 97 or 98 characters which remains uncracked.

The first section is a poetic phrase, which Sanborn composed himself. The second hints at something buried, and the third section comes from archaeologist Howard Carter’s diary describing the opening of a door in King Tut’s tomb on Nov. 26, 1922.

It’s been 15 years since Sanborn installed the 12-foot-high, verdigrised copper, granite and wood sculpture, and it’s been seven years since anyone made progress at cracking its code. On this page, I’ve provided a transcript of the ciphertext as well as explanations to breaking the first three sections. If you’re interested in the solutions, just follow the links at the top. The first two parts are straight forward enough that nearly anybody with a simple education in cryptography can solve them. The third part is much more advanced, and the fourth part is borderline impossible.

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Can you crack the code?

Click to read the cracked passages.

I chose to deal with the science of cryptography. Cryptography began in mathematics. Codes were developed, even from Caesar’s time, based on number theory and mathematical principles. I decided to use those principles and designed a work that is encoded.

Scupltor: James Sanborn

Title: Code Room

Jazziversaries July 30th

Buddy Guy (guitar, electric) - 1936 :: Happy jazziversary to electric bluesman Buddy Guy! Critically acclaimed, he is a pioneer of the Chicago blues sound and has served as an influence to some of the most notable musicians of his generation, including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

 In the 1960s Guy was a member of Muddy Waters’ band and as a house guitarist at Chess Records. He can be heard on Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’ and Koko Taylor’s 'Wang Dang Doodle’ as well as on his own Chess sides and the fine series of records he made with harmonica player Junior Wells. 

Ranked 30th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”,Guy is known for his showmanship on stage: playing his guitar with drumsticks or strolling into the audience while playing solos. His song “Stone Crazy” was ranked 78th in list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time also of Rolling Stone.Guy’s autobiography, When I Left Home: My Story, was released on May 8, 2012.

David Sanborn (saxophone) - 1945 :: Many happy jazziversary returns to sax player Dave Sanborn! One of the most commercially successful American saxophonists to earn prominence since the 1980s, Sanborn is described by critic Scott Yannow as “the most influential saxophonist on pop, R&B, and crossover players of the past 20 years.” Sanborn is often identified with radio-friendly smooth jazz however, Sanborn has expressed a disinclination for both the genre itself and his association with it.

He suffered from polio in his youth, and began playing the saxophone on a physician’s advice to strengthen his weakened chest muscles and improve his breathing. Alto saxophonist Hank Crawford, at the time a member of Ray Charles’ band, was an early and lasting influence on Sanborn.Sanborn performed with blues musicians Albert King and Little Milton at the age of 14, and continued playing blues when he joined Paul Butterfield’s band in 1967, after attending the University of Iowa.

Although Sanborn is most associated with smooth jazz, he explored the edges of free jazz in his youth, studying with saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Julius Hemphill. In 1993, he revisited this genre when he appeared on Tim Berne’s Diminutive Mysteries, dedicated to Hemphill. Sanborn’s album Another Hand also featured leading avant garde musicians. In his three and-a-half decade career, Sanborn has released 24 albums, won six Grammy awards and has had eight gold albums and one platinum album.

James Spaulding (sax, alto) - 1937 :: Jazziversary blessings  to sax player and flautist James Spaulding! He made his professional debut playing around Indianapolis with a rhythm “n” blues group. In 1962, he arrived in New York City, and subsequently was associated with notables such as Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Max Roach and the Ellington Orchestra. 

In 1975, he received a bachelor’s degree in music from Livingston College in New Jersey where he taught flute as an adjunct professor. James’ daughters, Gina and Yvonne Spaulding were on the cover of his very first recording: “The Legacy of Duke Ellington,” recorded in 1975. 

Mr. Spaulding’s range of performance experiences extends nationally and internationally, from the concert stage to jazz clubs to colleges and street fairs. His original music, a suite entitled “A Song of Courage,"was performed by him with full orchestra and choir at the Voorhees Chapel at the Rutgers University campus from funds awarded him by the National Endowment for the Arts.He has performed as a sideman and been recorded on over 100 recordings.

Kevin Mahogany (vocal) - 1958 :: A very happy jazziversary to Kevin Mahogany. Kevin is known for his scat singing,and his singing style has been compared with jazz singers Joe Williams and Johnny Hartman. His first CD release as a solo artist was Double Rainbow in 1993. This was followed by the self-titled album Kevin Mahogany, which won him his first critical acclaim in the media, prompting Newsweek to call Mahogany "the standout jazz vocalist of his generation.”

Mahogany appeared in Robert Altman’s 1996 film Kansas City, playing a character said to be based on Kansas City singer Big Joe Turner.  Kevin Mahogany lists his vocal influences as Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Al Jarreau and Eddie Jefferson.

Vernell Fournier (drums) - 1928 - 2000 :: and, from 1975, known as Amir Rushdan, was a jazz drummer probably best known for his work with Ahmad Jamal from 1956 to 1962. Fournier was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He left college to join a big band led by King Kolax. 

After Kolax downsized to a quintet, Fournier moved to Chicago in 1948, where he played with such musicians as Buster Bennett, Paul Bascomb andTeddy Wilson. As house drummer at the Bee Hive club on Chicago’s South Side in 1953-55, he accompanied many visiting soloists, including Lester Young, Ben Webster, Sonny Stitt, J.J. Johnson, Earl Washington (musician) and Stan Getz.

From 1953 to 1956, he also worked many recording sessions with Al Smith, Red Holloway, Lefty Bates, and others. He joined Ahmad Jamal’s trio in 1957, along with bass player Israel Crosby, and remained with the group until 1962, appearing on a series of recordings for the Chess label. The best known of these, At the Pershing: But Not for Me (1958), became one of the best selling jazz records of all time, remaining on the Billboard jazz charts for over two years. After leaving the Jamal trio, Fournier joined George Shearing for two years before rejoining Jamal briefly in 1965-66. 

He then took a long-running gig with a trio at a restaurant owned by Elijah Muhammad. He converted to Islam in 1975, and took the Muslim name of Amir Rushdan. He worked with Nancy Wilson, Clifford Jordan, Billy Eckstine and Joe Williams, John Lewis and Barry Harris.