Artificial Intelligence Resurrects Ancient Greek Texts

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An artificial Intelligence system named “Ithaca” could bring to life ancient Greek texts by filling-in gaps, in inscriptions and pinpoint when and where they are from, reports the Guardian.

Inscriptions were important as they were written directly by ancient people and were evidence of the thought, language, society and history of past civilisations said Dr Thea Sommerschield, a co-author of the research at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and Harvard University.

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This inscription (Inscriptiones Graecae, volume 1, edition 3, document 4, face B (IG I3 4B)) records a decree concerning the Acropolis of Athens and dates to 485/4 BC. Marsyas, Epigraphic Museum, WikiMedia CC BY 2.5.

“But most surviving inscriptions have been damaged over the centuries. So their texts are now fragmentary or illegible,” she said, adding that they may also have been moved from their original location, while methods such as radiocarbon dating were unusable on materials such as stone.

‘Sommerschield and colleagues report how they built an AI system that they nicknamed Ithaca, after the Greek island that was home to the legendary King Odysseus.

‘The team fed Ithaca more than 63,000 transcribed ancient Greek inscriptions, enabling it to pick out patterns in the order of letters and words, as well as associations between words and phrases and the age and provenance of the text.

‘The team then tuned the system before exploring whether it could accurately suggest when and where another 7,811 inscriptions were from, and propose a selection of letters and words to fill in artificially created gaps in the inscriptions, ranked by probability.’