# Mathematics of Pictish carvings reveal lost language

**Mathematics of ancient carvings reveals lost language.**

Elaborate symbols and ornate depictions of animals carved in stone by an ancient Scottish people, the Picts from where the Kinloch family name originates, have given up their secret – to mathematics. Statistical analysis reveals that the shapes are a forgotten written language. The method could help interpret many other enigmatic scripts – and even analyse animal communication.

Conventional statistical methods for analysing scripts calculate the entropy or “orderedness” of the symbols: Shakespeare’s prose would have a higher entropy than Egyptian hieroglyphs or Morse code, for example. However, such analysis only works for datasets large enough to capture most of the vocabulary in a language.

To overcome this problem, Rob Lee of the University of Exeter, UK, and colleagues have devised a way to compare small undeciphered scripts with known texts. The team compared symbols created by the Picts – a Scottish Iron Age society that flourished from the fourth to the ninth centuries AD – with over 400 known ancient and modern language texts.

The family name Kinloch is Pictish in origin.