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posted by martyb on Sunday October 06 2019, @06:50PM   Printer-friendly
from the In-absentia-lucis,-Tenebrae-vincunt dept.

Researchers in Oxfordshire are working to 'virtually unroll' several scrolls from the library of Herculaneum.

The scrolls were buried by Mt. Vesuvius which erupted in 79AD and are far to fragile to unroll physically (it has been tried with a few scrolls from this library with "largely disastrous results")

Unlike other ancient scrolls, these have resisted previous efforts to scan and read them due to their use of carbon based ink.

Unlike metal-based inks, such as the iron gall used to write medieval documents, carbon ink has a density similar to that of the carbonized papyrus on which it sits. Therefore, it appears invisible in X-ray scans.

The scrolls will be scanned at the U.K.'s Diamond Light Source synchrotron science facility at photon energies of 53-150keV.

The researchers believe that the tomography will "capture subtle, non-density-based evidence of ink, even when it is invisible to the naked eye in the scan data."

The machine-learning tool we are developing will amplify that ink signal by training a computer algorithm to recognize it pixel-by-pixel from photographs of opened fragments that show exactly where the ink is, voxel-by-voxel, in the corresponding tomographic data of the fragments. The tool can then be deployed on data from the still-rolled scrolls, identify the hidden ink, and make it more prominently visible to any reader.

The opened fragments that will be used to train the tool are the remains from scrolls sacrificed in earlier physical attempts at unrolling.


Original Submission

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Trio Wins $700K Vesuvius Challenge Grand Prize for Deciphering Ancient Scroll 4 comments

https://arstechnica.com/science/2024/02/trio-wins-700k-vesuvius-challenge-grand-prize-for-deciphering-ancient-scroll/

Last fall we reported on the use of machine learning to decipher the first letters from a previously unreadable ancient scroll found in an ancient Roman villa at Herculaneum—part of the 2023 Vesuvius Challenge. Tech entrepreneur and challenge co-founder Nat Friedman has now announced via X (formerly Twitter) that they have awarded the grand prize of $700,000 for producing the first readable text. The three winning team members are Luke Farritor, Yousef Nader, and Julian Schilliger.

As previously reported, the ancient Roman resort town Pompeii wasn't the only city destroyed in the catastrophic 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Several other cities in the area, including the wealthy enclave of Herculaneum, were fried by clouds of hot gas called pyroclastic pulses and flows.

[...] Brent Searles' lab at the University of Kentucky has been working on deciphering the Herculaneum scrolls for many years. He employs a different method of "virtually unrolling" damaged scrolls, which he used in 2016 to "open" a scroll found on the western shore of the Dead Sea, revealing the first few verses from the book of Leviticus. The team's approach combined digital scanning with micro-computed tomography—a noninvasive technique often used for cancer imaging—with segmentation to digitally create pages, augmented with texturing and flattening techniques. Then they developed software (Volume Cartography) to unroll the scroll virtually.

[...] In October, Farritor, a college student and SpaceX intern, successfully read the first text hidden within one of the rolled-up scrolls using a machine-learning model. The achievement snagged him $40,000. Nader, an Egyptian bio-robotics student in Berlin, received a smaller $10,000 First Ink prize for essentially being the second person to decipher letters in a scroll. Schilliger, a Swiss robotics student at ETH Zurich, won three Segmentation Tooling prizes, which enabled 3D mapping of the papyrus.

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  • (Score: 1) by Mojibake Tengu on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:05PM (6 children)

    by Mojibake Tengu (8598) on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:05PM (#903465) Journal

    Trying to read some randomly found Elder Scroll, what could possibly go wrong...

    Well, let's get serious. My question is, why using X-rays instead of, say, magnetic resonance?

    --
    Respect Authorities. Know your social status. Woke responsibly.
    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:40PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:40PM (#903472)

      Lets just hope that whatever Diamond Light Source synchrotron photons are... isn't like putting aluminum foil in the microwave.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by RandomFactor on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:45PM

      by RandomFactor (3682) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:45PM (#903473) Journal

      It's been tried in the past [seattletimes.com] (apologies for the nasty site) with some of these scrolls and MRI hasn't been successful.

      --
      В «Правде» нет известий, в «Известиях» нет правды
    • (Score: 2) by nishi.b on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:16PM (1 child)

      by nishi.b (4243) on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:16PM (#903478)

      This might also be due to the required resolution, both spatial (mm resolution is not enough) and to differentiate the signal from paper with and without ink.
      But this project is an improvement on a 2015 project that already yielded results from metal in the ink [www.esrf.eu]

      • (Score: 2) by opinionated_science on Monday October 07 2019, @01:23AM

        by opinionated_science (4031) on Monday October 07 2019, @01:23AM (#903536)

        it is wavelength - electrons are tiny and a bonus is they x-ray scatter, allowing a passive (well depending on the eV of the beam...!) atomic scan(that's the official name).

        Reading atoms one at a time, is probably one of the coolest things a human could ever do...

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by looorg on Sunday October 06 2019, @10:28PM

      by looorg (578) on Sunday October 06 2019, @10:28PM (#903507)

      Trying to read some randomly found Elder Scroll, what could possibly go wrong...

      Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn ...

    • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Monday October 07 2019, @03:19AM

      by RS3 (6367) on Monday October 07 2019, @03:19AM (#903569)

      Great answers already; also, possibly MRI could heat up the ink and maybe even burn the papyrus if there's metal in it?

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:40PM (6 children)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:40PM (#903471)

    "LOOK OUT! THERE'S A GIANT EUPTI - AAAAAAAARGH"

    • (Score: 2) by PartTimeZombie on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:00PM (4 children)

      by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:00PM (#903475)

      Based on the graffiti at Pompeii it will be something like "Lucius has a tiny dick".

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:13PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:13PM (#903476)

        That was "Pompous Trumpous has tiny hands".

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:26PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:26PM (#903482)

        Which proves there were trolls even when literacy was 30%.

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by RandomFactor on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:26PM (1 child)

        by RandomFactor (3682) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:26PM (#903484) Journal

        True dat!

        See here [kashgar.com.au] for examples :-)

        --
        В «Правде» нет известий, в «Известиях» нет правды
        • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:55PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:55PM (#903487)

          "Take hold of your servant girl whenever you want to; it's your right"

          They had nigger bitches in Pompeii, see.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07 2019, @01:09AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07 2019, @01:09AM (#903530)

      I thought all the bawdy comments were graffiti on the bath house walls. The scrolls are going to be the ancient equivalent of Quickbooks files -- Joe bought 3 dozen widgets for 5 talents. Or, maybe we finally get to see the tax returns...

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @11:40PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @11:40PM (#903511)

    Dust Reading Machine.

    If they never locked it down (scroll tm) would it be so hard to share the content now?

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