Papyrus Scrolls That Were Carbonized During The Deadly Eruption Of Mount Vesuvius Nearly 2,000 Years Ago Have Been Partly Deciphered Via Machine Learning, Winning Researchers A Prize Of $700,000 Through The “Vesuvius Challenge”

Alessandro - - illustrative purposes only

During the deadly eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago, a collection of papyrus scrolls with text written in ancient Greek were carbonized. Many years later, the charred scrolls were found in a villa that might’ve belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law.

The fragile state of the scrolls made it difficult to decipher what was written in them. If they were to be physically unrolled, the documents would disintegrate into unsalvageable pieces.

Experts needed to handle the scrolls with the utmost care and figure out creative ways of analyzing their contents without destroying them.

So, the Vesuvius Challenge was officially announced in March 2023 by its founders: Brent Seales, a professor of computer science at the University of Kentucky; Nat Friedman, the former CEO of GitHub; and Daniel Gross, co-founder of the search engine Cue.

They were particularly taken with the ancient scrolls and came up with a competition asking people to solve the dilemma of being unable to read the text.

In partnership with several institutions, they released X-ray tomography scans of several scrolls and made software that participants could use to examine the artifacts virtually. Whoever could decipher the scrolls would win monetary compensation. In total, more than a million dollars in cash prizes were offered by donors.

Recently, some researchers were able to almost completely decipher part of a scroll with machine learning technology, effectively earning them a prize of $700,000. A team of three researchers were responsible for the accomplishment: Youseff Nader, Luke Farritor, and Julian Schilliger.

They managed to interpret more than 2,000 characters, which equates to five percent of the scroll. They received the money for solving the Vesuvius Challenge on February 5.

The text they deciphered was written in ancient Greek and explored the notion of pleasure from an Epicurean point of view, a theory that pleasure is the highest good in the universe and is best achieved through freedom and tranquility.

Alessandro – – illustrative purposes only

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