Trio wins $700Ok Vesuvius Problem grand prize for deciphering historic scroll

Text from one of the Herculaneum scrolls, unseen for 2,000 years.

Enlarge / Textual content from one of many Herculaneum scrolls has been deciphered. Roughly 95 p.c of the scroll stays to be learn. (credit score: Vesuvius Problem)

Final fall we reported on the usage of machine studying to decipher the primary letters from a beforehand unreadable historic scroll present in an historic Roman villa at Herculaneum—a part of the 2023 Vesuvius Problem. Tech entrepreneur and problem co-founder Nat Friedman has now introduced through X (previously Twitter) that they’ve awarded the grand prize of $700,000 for producing the primary readable textual content. Three profitable workforce members are Luke Farritor, Yousef Nader, and Julian Schilliger.

As beforehand reported, the traditional Roman resort city Pompeii wasn’t the one metropolis destroyed within the catastrophic 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. A number of different cities within the space, together with the rich enclave of Herculaneum, had been fried by clouds of scorching gasoline referred to as pyroclastic pulses and flows. However nonetheless, some remnants of Roman wealth survived. One palatial residence in Herculaneum—believed to have as soon as belonged to a person named Piso—contained a whole bunch of priceless written scrolls constituted of papyrus, singed into carbon by volcanic gasoline.

The scrolls stayed buried below volcanic mud till they had been excavated within the 1700s from a single room that archaeologists consider held the non-public working library of an Epicurean thinker named Philodemus. There could also be much more scrolls nonetheless buried on the as-yet-unexcavated decrease flooring of the villa. The few opened fragments helped students establish quite a lot of Greek philosophical texts, together with On Nature by Epicurus and a number of other by Philodemus himself, in addition to a handful of Latin works. However the greater than 600 rolled-up scrolls had been so fragile that it was lengthy believed they might by no means be readable since even touching them might trigger them to crumble.

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