An Edmonton computer scientist says he's uncovered clues to deciphering a mysterious medieval manuscript that has baffled experts for generations.

The Voynich manuscript dates from the early 1400s and is written in an unknown language with an unknown script, scrambled by an unknown code.

Dozens of attempts have failed to unlock the secrets of its 240 pages, heavily illustrated with plants, stars, planets and bathing women.

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Even the famed Second World War cryptographers who cracked the Nazi's Enigma codes couldn't read the Voynich.

In a published paper, Greg Kondrack of the University of Alberta says he's used powerful artificial intelligence to open a sliver of daylight in the murk.

He says the text is written in medieval Hebrew, with the letters of each word scrambled in a precise way and all the vowels dropped.

He says the first sentence begins "She made recommendations to the priest ... "