An ambitious student used AI to partially decipher an ancient scroll. Thus, he won the archaeological competition and received a substantial prize. Interestingly, the winner used an old Nvidia graphics card.
After the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, the ancient city of Herculaneum was covered in ash for centuries. During archaeological work carried out more than two hundred years ago, researchers discovered in the ruins the so-called Villa of the Papyri – a large complex filled with the remains of priceless banknotes, but extremely fragile.
Ancient Roman scrolls remain a mystery after volcanic eruption
There are more than 1800 ash scrolls, but you can’t just unroll them – they will turn to dust. Scientists have been wondering for many years how to read information from papyri without opening them. The artifacts are not only fragile, but also quite long and very tightly coiled. This makes the task even more difficult.
In 2019, researchers partially mapped the contents of the coils using X-rays, which they then amplified with a particle accelerator. So they scanned two scrolls. Machine learning algorithms then enhanced the images to make the text a little clearer. However, scientists faced another task – deciphering the meaning of signs and whole words.
AI read a fragment of an ancient scroll – the student won 40,000 zlotys. prize dollars
So, in order to solve the mystery, a challenge to Vesuvius was organized. A competition with prizes where daredevils can read in different ways. There’s a lot to look forward to as the various prizes total a total of $1 million.
This is where Luke Farritor, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree, comes into the story. He decided to train his own artificial intelligence model to interpret the scroll. He used an old Nvidia GTX 1070 video card that was lying around at home.
After some time, while scanning the scrolls of Herculaneum, the algorithm was able to identify one word. It was the Greek word πορφυρας, which means the color purple, as well as purple dye or purple clothing. This discovery was a breakthrough, and Farritor received a prize of 40,000 zlotys for reading a total of 10 letters. dollars.
As the organizers note, a breakthrough by a student using artificial intelligence tools may mean progress towards receiving the main prize. 700 thousand dollars awaits a person who can decipher four paragraphs of text, at least 140 characters each.
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