Behold the digital oracle robbing history of romance


Behold the digital oracle robbing history of romance

Boffins are using AI to read ancient inscriptions, but something vital in the fragments of the past has been lost

Daisy Dunn

Academics at Oxford have devised a way of using artificial intelligence to read ancient Greek inscriptions. Rather than slave over deciphering the illegible or missing bits of text, they can now ask a computer to do the work for them.

Their ingenious machine, named Pythia after the priestess of Apollo at Delphi, has been taught to predict which letters are most likely to have filled gaps left in stone or ceramic inscriptions after decay or damage. What’s more, Pythia has been shown to make fewer mistakes than do humans, who have been honing the art of epigraphy ( for centuries.

This is obviously a brilliant feat. Deciphering inscriptions can be painstaking and time-consuming work. But is there not also something slightly deflating about being able to remove the mystery from something so old at the click of a button?..

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