A 230-year-old carved inscription on a rock that has baffled French historians for years has finally been cracked, and some of the words "may be Welsh".

Thousands of people enquired when the village of Plougastel, in Brittany, launched a competition asking for help to decipher the 20 lines of text inscribed on the metre-high stone, last May.

The rock, in a cove that is only accessible at low-tide, was found by historians three years ago, but nobody was able to translate the writing on it until the €2000 competition enticed 61 experts from around the world to have a go.

On Monday, February 24, it was announced that the prize money would be split between two winning entrants.

Although the translations differ slightly, both winners agree that the carving is a memorial to a man who died between 1786 and 1787 - just a few years before the French revolution.

Frenchmen Robert Faligot (right) and Noel Rene Toudic translated the text on the inscribed rock

One of the winning teams of translators thought the text was written in the Breton language, but also had some Welsh words.

The other said that he was working under the assumption that the writer was semi-literate, a BBC report last year suggested that the letters "may relate to the sounds of words," perhaps explaining why they sound close to Welsh. 

Breton is a Celtic language that was brought to the coast of Brittany in the Early Middle Ages by migrating Britons. The language is closely related to Cornish and, more distantly, to Welsh. 

The national anthem of Brittany, Bro Gozh ma Zadoù, is based on, and played to the same tune as, the Welsh anthem Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.

The tragic story behind the memorial to a little boy on a Welsh mountain:

The key part of the translation by historian Roger Faligot and artist Alain Robet, who believe some of the words are written in Welsh, reads: "He was the incarnation of courage and joie de vivre. Somewhere on the island, he was struck and he is dead."

The "he" referred to is a man named Serge.

Noël René Toudic, an English teacher and Celtic language expert, and the joint winner of the prize, translated the text as: "Serge died when with no skill at rowing, his boat was tipped over by the wind."

As well as normal French letters there are Scandinavian-style letters and some are reversed or upside-down.

Mayor of Plougastel, Dominique Cap, said the two translations differed slightly but were "very similar" in that both agreed that the carving was a remembrance to a man who died at sea.