We are going to clear something up right away: nobody actually knows what the Toynbee Tiles actually are. There are theories, and we are going to discuss them on this page, but none of them are definitive theories.
So, what are the tiles? Well, the Toynbee Tiles are messages which have been found throughout the streets of the United States and in a few South American cities. They started to appear in the 1980s and, since then, hundreds have been discovered. Generally speaking, they contain a message which looks like this:
IN MOVIE ‘2001
However, there are a few tiles out there which tend contain political statements and the like. The tiles are made from a combination of linoleum and a compound to fill the cracks on the asphalt.
Whilst the tiles have appeared in many places throughout the United States, it is believed that very few of the titles created, at least since 2002, outside of Philadelphia have been put in place by the original artist who, to this date, remains unknown. Instead, they are put in place by copycats.
It is believed that the word ‘Toynbee’ (which appeared on the original tiles) refers to the British historian, Arnold J. Toynbee. It is likely that the Kubrick’s 2001 refers to 2001: A Space Odyssey. This movie, of course, involves a mission to Jupiter. This covers the last part. Beyond this, there is very little that can be said about the tiles. At one point, an address did appear on the tiles. However, the person who lives at that address is not associated with the Toynbee Tiles at all.
What we do know, however, is that the Toynbee Tiles likely originated in Philadelphia (the first tiles were discovered here). One theory which seems to be fairly prevalent comes from a story written by Ray Bradbury, known as ‘The Toynbee Convector’. This story talks about how humankind will need to act now to preserve themselves and they have to stretch out into the solar system if they wish to thrive. Many people believe that this means that the message indicates that humans should colonize Jupiter.
Another theory relates to a book written by Arnold Toynbee. This book contains a theory about bringing dead molecules back to life. This theory was actually used in the movie directed by Stanley Kubrick which, of course, creates the link.
The only person who has come forward, with any credibility at least, for creating those original tiles is James Morasco, who many believe to be an alias of a Philadelphia resident, Severino Verna, a famous recluse.
In 2007, some new tiles popped up in Philadelphia which were very similar in design to the original tiles from the 1980s. This seems to indicate that in 2007, the original artist was still alive and placing these tiles. As I mentioned previously, it is unlikely that any tiles outside of Philadelphia, at least recent ones, were created by the original artist.

By Ryan Gillam – Ryan is a freelance writer who has been published all over the internet.  He is a British native, and is currently living in Sweden.

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