A 21-Year-Old Just Solved a 2000-Year-Old Mystery In ‘World-Historical’ Breakthrough
21-year-old Luke Farritor became the first person in millennia to read the text on an ancient scroll using machine learning.
A 21-year-old computer scientist named Luke Farritor just became the first person in nearly 2,000 years to read words from a papyrus scroll that was buried under more than 60 feet of volcanic ash after the disastrous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE.
Farritor used a machine learning program to pinpoint the Greek word for “purple” in one of the hundreds of carbonized scrolls that were unearthed in Herculaneum, a town that was obliterated by the eruption along with its more famous neighbor, Pompeii.
The scrolls were found in 1752 during excavations of an ancient villa in Herculaneum that may have belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law. Excavators at that time quickly realized that the singed and fragile works disintegrated when they were unrolled, and so left most of them bound in their original form.