Artificial Intelligence will Help Decipher Scrolls from Herculaneum

Experts who work at Diamond Light Source (DLS) (the third-generation synchrotron radiation complex located in Oxfordshire, UK) plan to use powerful light rays to decipher fragile 2000 years old scrolls. British scientists hope that ancient charred scrolls can be read using artificial intelligence

Two whole charred scrolls and four fragments were stored in the library of the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum. It was destroyed by the Vesuvius volcano in August 79 AD along with Pompeii. Scrolls were discovered during excavations at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Now they intend to read them at the synchrotron – particle accelerator, in which the rays move in a closed circuit, producing light that is many times brighter than the sun.

Physicist Laurent Chapon said that the technology works on the principle of computed tomography when a three-dimensional image of a person is created. Scientists passed super-intense light through a scroll, then received several two-dimensional images. Thus, the three-dimensional volume of the object was reconstructed. This will make it possible to read the text in the scroll.

Scientists note that ink on scrolls is difficult to see even with the help of a synchrotron since they are created on a carbon basis, like the papyrus on which they are written. But the researchers hope that the density of the paper will be thinner in places with written characters.

After scanning the fragments on which the letters are visible, specialists want to use a machine-learning algorithm to decrypt what is written on the scrolls.

The data obtained will be analyzed by scientists from the University of Kentucky (USA) using advanced computer technology.

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