The Puzzly Mystery of the Astronaut of Casar

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[Image courtesy of Atlas Obscura.]

What is it about a secret message from decades or even centuries ago that intrigues us so?

Last year around this time, we chronicled the stories behind three stones in the United States inscribed with unidentified runes or letters that have defied attempts to solve them.

stele casar

Today, we add to that list of strange stones bearing the secret words of the past as we discuss the Astronaut of Casar.

The Astronaut of Casar, also known as the Alien of Casar or simply the Casar stele, is a stone slab that supposedly dates back to Roman times, if not earlier. It was originally embedded in the wall of a cemetery in a village in Spain known as Casar.

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[One theoretical interpretation.]

The inscription carved into the body of the illustrated figure consists of Latin characters, but the language appears to be something Indo-European. Possible languages include Lusitanian, Tartessian, and an early form of Basque.

The identity of the figure depicted on the stele is the subject of great debate. Some observers believe is a Celtiberian warrior from the 1st or 2nd century B.C. (The Celtiberians were Celts that lived on the Iberian peninsula in the last centuries B.C.)

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But, of course, the name indicates another theory regarding the identity of the figure on the stele. Some observers believe it’s meant to be an astronaut or an alien, a visitor from another planet. (The large head represents either a space helmet or the disproportionate head of an alien being, you see.)

Yes, I knew if we kept discussing mysterious stones, we would eventually have to talk about aliens at some point!

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Those who ascribe to the alien astronaut theory believe the stele is a message of gratitude from the alien, a thank you for the hospitality of a Casar family who welcomed it for a season while it stayed or was stuck on Earth.

To be fair, I think that’s a reach. There are plenty of examples of figures drawn or carved with oversized heads in art and archaeological history, so we don’t immediately need to look to the stars for answers.

stele casar 3

But if you want to look for answers, instead of the cemetery wall in Casar, the Astronaut of Casar can be found in the Archaeological Museum of Cáceres, Spain.

What do you think the stone says, fellow puzzlers? Is it just a strange funeral marker, or something more otherworldly? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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Puzzles from Across the Sea

A fellow puzzler passed me a copy of a Spanish puzzle book, and I thought I would share its intriguing visual and linguistic stylings with the PuzzleNation audience. (I’ve done this once before with a German puzzle book, and I hope to obtain more from other countries to really give PuzzleNation a PuzzleInternational flavor!)

Now, my Spanish isn’t as sharp as it used to be — any facility I once had with the language, I credit to years spent selling hot dogs outside a Home Depot, rather than six years of classes across middle school and high school — but I should be able to muddle through enough to explain the variations in these puzzles from ones you might be more familiar with.

In any case, let’s get to the puzzles! [Click on each for a larger version.]

The first thing you notice about these clued grids is that there’s none of the diagonal symmetry that defines traditional crosswords. Instead, there’s a curious singlet-letter arrangement along the top and left side. (It’s almost like a kakuro puzzle, with shared clue boxes offering across and down hints.)

Here the across and down clues offer hints for overlapping letters, like a Brick by Brick mixed with a Camouflage puzzle.

This puzzle works by isolating syllables in each hexagon cell, and creating words by reading these syllables in the direction indicated by the arrows next to each clue.

In this “sopa de letras” — a word search, but literally translated as “soup of letters” — the solver must identify each of the 12 drawings around the grid and find those words in the grid.

This one is pretty self-explanatory, as the solver places letters to form five-letter words according to the set letters and the arrows provided. (Interestingly enough, the title translates as “Noughts and Crosses.”)

Ah, here’s something familar! A logic puzzle is a logic puzzle no matter where you travel.

This wonderful spread of variety puzzles offers an array of challenges, with puzzles involving encryption, letter-shifting, deduction, and brain teasers!

It’s always a treat to explore puzzles from another culture’s perspective. Thanks for taking this journey with us today.

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