Update: begin solving the Pictish Puzzle October 25th

If you’ve been anxiously anticipating getting your chance to help piece back together the carved face of the Pictish Hilton of Cadboll Stone from thousands of fragments, mark you calendar: on October 25th, the website Pictish Puzzle officially launches. It’s a placeholder right now, but once it goes live, anybody with a reasonably functional computer — it doesn’t have to be a high-end gaming machine — will be able to use the Pictish Puzzle program to manipulate fragments in 3D and piece them together like a jigsaw puzzle.

The fragments are organized in the database by category and users can collect pieces from all the categories to work with in the same way you would put together a conventional jigsaw puzzle. You could pull up all the knotwork pieces, for instance, and pick fragments you think look like they might go together, then go to the corner category to look for some framing pieces. Other categories include human, animal, tool mark, strip, spiral, key and, awesomely, appendage. Once you have two or more pieces on your desktop, you can push them around in three dimensions to see if any of them might fit.

Here’s a preview of the software at work:

That looks hard, man. I’m intimidated because I am not a great puzzler, but you don’t have to be a great anything to give this a try. You don’t have to have a fancy computer, gaming experience or flawless spatial awareness. The designers specifically made the program to be widely usable by anyone. The more people participate, the better the odds of getting any useable recreations out of this project.

All suggested solutions will be displayed for users to judge before being examined by professionals. The final results will be combined to create a digital replica of the original face of the Hilton of Cadboll Stone, something that hasn’t been seen since 1676. Everybody who worked on the puzzle will be credited in some way.