Cuneiform: How AI unlocks secrets in the world’s oldest texts

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Behind a locked door on the British Museum in LONDON is a lovely library with excessive, arched ceilings. Inside this secret room, Irving Finkel He opens the drawer and pulls out a clay pill. Cracked and burnt, stamped with tiny characters of the world’s oldest written language. This can be a listing of prophecies. One other drawer reveals one other pill. “This can be a prayer to the god Marduk,” says Finkel, who’s the guardian of historical Mesopotamian script, languages, and cultures on the museum, and one of many few folks on the planet who can learn this long-dead script. fluently often called cuneiform.

Behind us, a photographer meticulously captures photos of this submit, inserting lights to focus on the indented engravings. This work is a part of a revolution that makes use of as we speak’s computing energy to deliver this 5000-year-old report again to life and unlock new secrets and techniques of the world’s first civilization.

Though this writing system was deciphered 165 years in the past (cf.reading the signs“), a lot of the texts that use it have by no means been translated into fashionable languages ​​- an especially advanced job that has relied on consultants like Finkel. Now, due to advances in synthetic intelligence, computer systems can learn and translate cuneiform, reassemble shattered tablets, reconstruct historical libraries. and even being educated to foretell lacking items of textual content.These instruments permit for the primary full studying of the primary works of literature since antiquity, then present perception into biblical tales and make clear civilizations on the daybreak of historical past.

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