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Artificial Intelligence: Using AI to Interpret Ancient Scripts

By Dick Weisinger

What did the ancients know and what can we learn from them? Archaeologists and histories have been trying to answer those questions for many decades.

One key to that past are texts left behind that to date have been unreadable accounts of what the ancients thought. Texts, for example, from Sumeria and the ancient Indus Valley civilizations, have not yet successfully been translated. Only about 10 percent of the discovered Sumerian texts have been translated.

Now researchers from universities like MIT and companies like Google are attempting to break the code of some of the ancient texts using AI and machine learning.

Émilie Pagé-Perron, a researcher in Assyriology at the University of Toronto, said that “the texts we’re working on are not very interesting individually, but they’re extremely interesting if you take them as groups of texts. The records give us a picture of day to day life in ancient Mesopotamia, of power structures and trading networks, but also of other aspects of its social history, such as the role of female workers. These people are so different and so remote from us, but at the same time, they have the same basic problems. Understanding Mesopotamia is a way of understanding what it means to be human.”

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