UNL student uses artificial intelligence to read ancient Roman manuscripts

UNL student uses artificial intelligence to read ancient Roman manuscripts

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) – Luke Farritor has been on a mission for months to uncover a lost message from nearly two thousand years ago.

“There was a library next to the city of Pompeii. We are sure that that library was owned by Julius Caesar’s father-in-law. Of course it happened in Pompeii that the volcano erupted and everything was buried in the lava,” Varitor said.

Hundreds of papyrus scrolls were found among the ruins of that library, and the heat from the volcanic ash and debris carbonized the scrolls, leaving them distorted but preserved.

Now researchers and students from around the country are trying to figure it out, calling it the Vesuvius Challenge.

“They said hey, download the scans here and if you can find writing in them, we’ll send you a bunch of money,” Faritor said.

Characterizing the messages remaining in the scrolls began with Dr. Brent Scales at the University of Kentucky using X-ray tomography and computer imaging.

“We start by doing CT scans of the manuscripts. It’s the same scan you would get if you went to the doctor. You start with that scan and the first thing you have to do is actually open the scroll. Now it’s like a snail, like a toilet paper thing, you have to “By actually flattening that out and isolating each square of toilet paper.”

Even the text on the published scrolls was almost unreadable, until Luke brought his AI expertise to the project.

“You need to use the AI ​​that I developed to make that text visible and the ink visible,” Varitor said.

It took a lot of trial and error, but Luke’s AI began to find the letters in the scroll – at first, just one, then two – and then made the amazing discovery that earned him first prize in the Vesuvius Challenge.

“Of the ten letters I found, most of them have the word porphyros written on them, which means purple in Greek. “I’m really happy that the first word we found on the scroll isn’t ‘o’ or ‘o’, it’s purple,” Faritor said.

The porphyry find led to Luke receiving a prize money of $40,000. But the challenge is not over yet: researchers are still offering a reward for the first four paragraphs found inside the scroll, and Luke wants to be the one to bring the ancient text back to life.

“I definitely want to read all the scrolls. That’s my current priority and it’s an exciting avenue so I’ll definitely be pursuing that in the long term,” said Faritor.

The grand prize winner will receive $700,000 in prize money.

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    (Tags for translation)Ancient Rome

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