I'd like to say that spotting a Toynbee tile wasn't one of the most thrilling parts of my trip to Philadelphia, but I might be lying if I did. On the corner of 9th & Chestnut I happened to look down and excitedly began gesturing to the pavement while a confused Mina wondered if I had gone crazy.

So WTF is a Toynbee tile?

In the mid-1990's a series of bizarre tiles began appearing on American streets. The tiles were mysteriously laid on roads by persons unknown, and featured cryptic messages with a recurring theme involving the words "toynbee idea in kubrick's 2001 resurrect dead on planet jupiter". In the intervening years there have been a variety of media reports on the tiles, but no has come forward to claim responsibility. The consensus on the interwebs seems to be that any new tiles are imitations and the original artist is probably deceased.

Have you ever seen one of these?

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  1. Anonymous27.8.10

    A lot of people think the Toynbee tiles originated in Philly, since we have more there than anywhere else. But I guess we'll never know... :-)

  2. hmmmmm i've never heard of this! i guess i'll have to keep a look out...that stinks it was the most exciting thing in philly, did you guys go see the "rocky" steps??

  3. I remember you talking about these things back in the day.

    For some reason a lot of the pictures don't show up all the time on your blog (probably because I'm using a shitty old browser), so I can't see this one, but I know what they are.


  4. stephanie - I didn't mean to imply that I didn't enjoy Philly (quite the opposite, in fact), I was just irrationally excited to spot a Toynbee tile with my own eyes.

  5. i guess 'they' are having the last laugh. still unexplained a bit. i love stuff like that, and that you actually recognized it!

  6. I've never heard of these before but the idea is really intriguing.

  7. haha ok gotcha! enjoying all the philly stories :)

  8. I see these all the time but had no idea what they were! Thanks for the tid bit of history!

  9. I have yet to see one of these, but i didn't know to look. i will now! only a traveler like yourself has these bits of knowledge. i love it.

  10. i'm totally going to be looking everywhere i walk for one of these now. although i doubt los angeles will help me out.