Pompeii breakthrough as ancient scroll finally deciphered after 2,000 years

Scrolls cocooned in volcanic ash that consumed the Roman city of Pompeii have been deciphered for the first time in 2,000 years.

Using AI researchers were able to discern some meaning from the writings which were discovered in the doomed ancient Italian city that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD.

The suffocating ash cloud pumped out by the volcano covered the nearby Roman settlement ended up preserving the memory and outline of people, animals, artwork and even a chamber containing manuscripts.

Excavations in the 18th century recovered scores of these texts which had been rolled up in tubes which in turn where then entombed in the volcanic debris.

Seeking to uncover the secrets the writings hold, a project called the Vesuvius Challenge offered a £560,000 prize to any researchers around the globe who could help bring the texts to life.

According to the organisers, the prize for helping unlock the scrolls was awarded to Berlin student Youssef Nader, American Luke Farritor, and Swiss robotics student, Julian Schilliger.

CBS news reports the group used AI to help interpret ink from papyrus and work out the faint Greek lettering through pattern recognition.

In a statement the Vesuvius Challenge revealed some of the information hidden until now in the scrolls which appear to be philosophical treatises concerning pleasure and abundance.

They said: “The general subject of the text is pleasure, which, properly understood, is the highest good in Epicurean philosophy.

“In these two snippets from two consecutive columns of the scroll, the author is concerned with whether and how the availability of goods, such as food, can affect the pleasure which they provide.

“Do things that are available in lesser quantities afford more pleasure than those available in abundance? Our author thinks not: “as too in the case of food, we do not right away believe things that are scarce to be absolutely more pleasant than those which are abundant.

“However, is it easier for us naturally to do without things that are plentiful? “Such questions will be considered frequently.”

“Since this is the end of a scroll, this phrasing may suggest that more is coming in subsequent books of the same work. At the beginning of the first text, a certain Xenophantos is mentioned, perhaps the same man, presumably a musician, also mentioned by Philodemus in his work On Music.”

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