Music and food in the first deciphered passages of the Herculaneum papyri

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Music and food in the first deciphered passages of the Herculaneum papyri

No longer single letters or words, but rather entire passages dedicated to music, food and the pleasures of life (probably the work of the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus) were deciphered for the first time from one of the Herculaneum papyri , carbonized by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD .. The result, which marks a turning point in the study of the classical world , was obtained thanks to artificial intelligence by three very young researchers, Youssef Nader, Luke Farritor and Julian Schilliger, winners of the 700 thousand dollar prize offered by Vesuvius Challenge international competition.

The initiative was launched just ten months ago by Brent Seales, a computer science professor at the University of Kentucky, who has been involved for years in using X-ray tomography and artificial intelligence to reveal the secrets of these damaged ancient documents. Thanks to the support of two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Nat Friedman and Daniel Gross, a real competition was launched (in which around 1,500 computer scientists took part) which included a series of progressive cash prizes, up to the main prize of 700,000 dollars for those who managed to decipher four passages of a papyrus of 140 characters each by 31 December 2023.

The competition was defeated by a team made up of three very young people : the Egyptian doctoral student Youssef Nader, the university student Luke Farritor, an intern at Space In addition to achieving the objective set by the competition, the three also managed to decipher 11 other columns of text for a total of over 2,000 characters.

“The text we have revealed so far represents only 5% of a papyrus ,” comments Nat Friedman on Platform $100,000 to the first team that can read at least 90% of all four scrolls we scanned.”

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