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Win $250,000: Unlock the Secrets of a Burnt Manuscript from the Eruption of Vesuvius!

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Scientists are offering a $250,000 (£205,000) prize to anyone who can read a series of 2,000-year-old manuscripts that were burned when Vesuvius erupted.

When a volcanic eruption devastated Pompeii in 79 AD, hundreds of texts from the library of Herculaneum were buried and burned with ash and gases.

It reappeared in 1752 in a villa near the Gulf of Naples thought to have belonged to the family of Julius Caesar, but its contents remained a mystery as scientists thought it was too fragile to detect.

Can YOU decipher these ancient scrolls? Scientists offer $250,000 prize if you can https://t.co/2gxkOgvjzt

– Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) March 17, 2023

A group of researchers has launched a competition showing that an artificial intelligence system can extract letters and symbols from high-resolution x-ray images of documents.

This machine learning algorithm has been trained to read ink on both the surface and hidden layers of unopened rolls.
Lead researcher Professor Brent Seals, a computer scientist at the University of Kentucky, told the Guardian: “We have shown how to read Herculaneum ink. With us”.

The researchers are releasing the software they used, along with thousands of 3D x-ray images of two scrolls and three papyrus fragments, to help others decipher the documents.

They hope that research teams from around the world will help them improve their AI programs and reach their goal.

“We have competitors, so we can increase our ability to extract more and more text,” Sales added.

Each research group will compete for a $150,000 (£123,000) prize.

This will be awarded to the first person to read four textual passages from the inner layers of the scrolls before the end of this year.

Additional prizes of $100,000 (£80,000) will be available to those who can detect ink on rolls using a 3D X-ray scan.

The two papyri are among hundreds of scrolls found in the 1750s.

The black ink used to write on them is not visible, but when viewed in infrared, Greek letters and symbols can be seen, some of which have been deciphered by artificial intelligence software. Most of the Herculaneum manuscripts analyzed so far are written in ancient Greek, but researchers believe that some of them may also contain texts in Latin.

Stephen Parsons, Ph.D., who was part of the research team, said technology improvements could help scientists better understand the manuscripts.

Source: Daily Mail

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