Three students managed to decipher a manuscript from Herculaneum with the help of artificial intelligence. The scrolls were buried in the ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, Sky News reports.
The papyri, which are part of a collection of about 1,800 scrolls, and thousands of relics were charred during the volcanic eruption.
More than 800 scrolls were discovered in the city of Herculaneum, near Pompeii, in a Roman villa. They are currently in a library in Naples.
Decipherment attempts were in vain until three students managed to decipher 15 columns of a scroll thanks to decoding devices based on artificial intelligence.
Three students will share the $1 million grand prize. Photo X/ Nat Friedman
This happened as part of the Vesuvius Challenge, a competition that offered a prize worth 1 million dollars.
Germany's Youssef Nader, USA's Luke Farritor and Switzerland's Julian Schilliger will share the grand prize
“These fifteen columns are from the end of the first scroll we have been able to read and contain new texts from the ancient world that have never been seen before.”Nat Friedman, one of the organizers of the contest, transmitted on X.
According to him, the manuscript may have been written by the philosopher Philodemus, who spoke of “music, food and how to enjoy life's pleasures”.
“Virtual Decipherment” of the parchment is made by 3D scanning of the text with the help of a computerized scanner.
The parchment was then separated into segments and the inked areas were detected by a machine learning mechanism – an application of artificial intelligence.
The discovery impressed scientists as well as historians, including Professor Alice Roberts, who described it as “the archaeological discovery of my life“.
According to Friedman, the deciphered text represents only 5% of one of the scrolls discovered, with the possibility that thousands of other scrolls have yet to be found in the Villa of the Papyri.
“In 2024, our goal is to read from a few passages of text to entire scrolls, and we will announce a new grand prize of $100,000 for the first team to decipher at least 90% of all four scrolls we have scan“, Friedman also transmitted on X.