AI Reveals Secrets of Ancient Texts Belonging to Caesar’s Family

“AI Unveils Secrets of 2,000-Year-Old Scroll from Mount Vesuvius Eruption, Awarding Students $700,000 Prize”

Three students have successfully claimed a $700,000 prize by employing artificial intelligence to decipher a 2,000-year-old scroll that was charred during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The scroll, previously unreadable due to the destruction in the Roman town of Herculaneum, is believed to have belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law and delves into topics such as music and food.

This breakthrough is hailed as a “revolution” in Greek philosophy by experts. Scholars suggest that the writing style resembles that of the Greek philosopher Philodemus, a follower of Epicurus, possibly serving as a philosopher-in-residence at Herculaneum.

The scrolls, discovered in the 18th century in the town’s villa library, were initially a mystery to scholars due to severe damage from volcanic debris. Attempts to unroll them resulted in disintegration. However, the high temperatures of the Vesuvius eruption carbonized and preserved the scripts, preventing their typical decomposition.

Last year, Dr. Brent Seales and his team at the University of Kentucky utilized high-resolution CT scans to unveil the texts, but the indecipherable black carbon ink posed a challenge. Dr. Seales initiated the Vesuvius Challenge, offering a $1 million prize for a solution.

Three tech-savvy students—Youssef Nader, a Berlin-based PhD student, Luke Farritor, a SpaceX intern, and student, and Julian Schillinger, a Swiss Robotics student—succeeded by building an AI model using pattern recognition to decipher the lettering.

The AI model has uncovered 2,000 Greek characters from one of the four scanned scrolls, constituting only 5% of the text. Translation of these characters reveals the author discussing the sources of pleasure in life, with references to music and food. Philodemus contemplates whether scarcity enhances pleasure, drawing parallels with the consumption of food.

Dr. Federica, a papyrology researcher at the University of Naples, describes this achievement as the “start of a revolution in Greek philosophy.” The Vesuvius Challenge team aims to utilize this technology to decode 90% of all four scrolls scanned this year, and eventually, all 800 scrolls.

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