Treasury of the Athenians. Temple built around 5th century BC. Detail of a hymn to Delphi in ancient Greek engraved in a wall. Apollo also appears with the zither, Delphi, Greece. Photo Credit: PHAS/Getty ImagesSociety United Kingdom
AI Tool Gives New Possibilities to Study Ancient Greek Texts
A London-based AI company took up the challenge of creating a system able to restore, date, and fill in the gaps of ancient Greek texts, thus providing researchers and historians a useful tool to analyze with greater precision past civilizations and better understand our common history.
The AI system nicknamed Ithaca — the Greek island home to the legendary King Odysseus — was fed more than 63,000 transcribed ancient Greek inscriptions. This way, patterns of letters and words, and associations between words and phrases, could be picked out, as well as the age and provenance of the text.
“Just as microscopes and telescopes have extended the range of what scientists can do today, Ithaca aims to singularly augment and expand the capabilities to study one of the most significant periods of human history,” says Dr Yannis Assael, a co-author of the work from the AI company DeepMind.
The study shows that Ithaca’s accuracy reached 62% when used alone, and 72% when the system’s suggestions were interpreted by a historian. Also, the inscriptions were dated within 30 years of their established date, and their provenance was correctly identified 71% of the time. Artificial intelligence comes in handy since methods such as radiocarbon dating are of no use with materials like stone. The approach could be adapted to other ancient written languages or other mediums like papyrus, even going as far as providing insights into the authorship of texts.