A 21-year-old student has discovered the first word on an ancient Roman scroll.
“Recovering such a library would transform our knowledge of the ancient world in ways we can hardly imagine. The impact could be as great as the rediscovery of manuscripts during the Renaissance,” says Robert Fowler, a classicist at the University of Bristol in England.
In 79 C.E., the eruption of Mount Vesuvius carbonized many documents. The “Vesuvius Challenge” was launched recently, offering prize money to anyone who can use A.I. to help decipher ancient scrolls. And that is just what young Luke Farritor did when he discovered “porphyras” – an ancient Greek word for “purple” – on the scroll. The text comes from one of the 800 scrolls found in the 1700s in an ancient Roman city in what is believed to be the villa of Julius Caesar’s father-in-law. “This word is our first dive into an unopened ancient book,” adds Brent Seales, a computer scientist working on techniques to decipher scrolls for over 20 years.