An Unsolved Mystery: The Tale of The Toynbee Tiles

Since the 1980s more than a hundred colorful tiles about the size of a license plate have appeared in more than twenty major cities in the United States and four South American cities. Known as the Toynbee Tiles, to this day their cryptic messages and origins are shrouded in an enduring unsolved mystery.

Many Mysterious Tiles Mention Arnold Toynbee

#1. Toynbee Tile

An Unsolved Mystery: The Tale of The Toynbee Tiles
Photo: Amusing Planet

It is most likely that this name refers to the English religious historian, Arnold J. Toynbee, who was born in the late 19th century. Oddly, some of the tiles mention filmmaker, Stanley Kubrick, best known for the iconic film 2001: A Space Odyssey, that concerned a man who was reborn on a mission to Jupiter. The strange messages embedded in the tiles are bizarre to say the very least, and topics varied from paranoid slurs about journalists and news media to the mafia and Jews.

How Are These Strange Tiles Made?

Although the person behind the creation of the Toynbee tiles remains part of the unsolved mystery, the tiles and their strange messages are embedded in the asphalt of public roads, some of which are heavily traversed 24/7. They are laid in the ground during the summer months. After the design is created, the tiles are wrapped in tarpaper and sealed in a linoleum and asphalt crack sealant. They seal themselves, so to speak, as the weight of car tires and foot traffic combined with intense summer heat adhere the tiles permanently to the asphalt. Experts surmise that installation with these materials can take up to a month to complete.

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