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Researchers say that the first passages of the famous Herculaneum scrolls have been decoded

More than 2000 characters, including the first full passages, were reportedly deciphered from a scroll, according to a report.

Researchers say that the first passages of the famous Herculaneum scrolls have been decoded
Cover Image Source: Scrollprize.org | Vesuvius Challenge

Technology has made our lives easier in many ways, more so with the assistance of the latest artificial intelligence (AI). However, that's not all and it has also been a great help to the world of research. After using AI to uncover the first word to be read from an unopened Herculaneum scroll, researchers have recently revealed many nearly complete passages from the scroll, reports CNN. These scrolls are hundreds of papyri that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Many of these documents would reportedly crumble if anyone attempted to unroll them and any writing on them would be nearly illegible to the human eye.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pembegül Dal
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Pembegül Dal


 

These scrolls were unearthed after an Italian farmworker encountered a marble pavement, which led to an excavation. A few of the scrolls were unrolled by a monk over several decades and were found to contain philosophic texts written in Greek. In 2015, using X-ray tomography and computer vision, a team led by Dr. Brent Seales at the University of Kentucky read the En-Gedi scroll without opening it. As the scroll was found in the Dead Sea region of Israel, the scroll had text from the book of Leviticus, according to Scrollprize.



 

Since then, virtual unwrapping has become a growing field with multiple successes. They figured out that by using X-ray tomography, they could also read the elusive carbon ink of the Herculaneum scrolls. Because of this, they launched the Vesuvius Challenge. The website states that it was "to bring together to read the Herculaneum scrolls." More than 2000 characters, including the first full passages, were reportedly deciphered from a scroll. Brent Seales said, "It's incredibly gratifying to know that these things are available and we have now a mechanism to read them — and that reading them is going to create an entire field of study and scholarship for classicists."



 

The first word to be read from an unopened scroll was found separately by two people in October, Luke Farritor, a computer science student at the University of Nebraska and Youssef Nadera, a robotics graduate student at Freie University Berlin. This year, another student joined them, Juliam Schilliger, a robotics student at ETH Zurich. The three of them have won prize money of $700,000 for being the first team to decipher more than 85% of characters from four continuous passages within the same scroll. Moreover, the team went ahead and read 15 partial columns of text, which is about 5% of the scroll.



 

The deciphered passages were pulled from the end of a scroll and had words written by the philosopher Philodemus. In the decoded text, Philodemus has written about "pleasure" and whether the abundance of goods available can affect the amount of pleasure they provide. "As too in the case of food, we do not right away believe things that are scarce to be absolutely more pleasant than those which are abundant," the first sentence reads, according to the outlet. Seales said, "If you look at the level of the vocabulary (from the passages), there is a really nuanced, intellectual conversation going on here. It just makes me excited to want to deliver to the scholars a pristine, complete copy of what this is so that they can do their work, and then we can fully understand it."

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