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Win $250K By Reading Ancient Scrolls Carbonized By Vesuvius

A library of scrolls in the villa of Julius Caesar's father-in-law was covered by mud and lava when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. The scrolls were carbonized. Can they still be read? Prizes totaling $250,000 are being offered to read at least 4 separate passages of continuous and plausible text from the scrolls, each at least 140 characters long.


(Imagine the secrets of Roman and Greek philosophy waiting to be read!)

Early attempts to open the scrolls unfortunately destroy many of them. A few are painstakingly unrolled by an Italian monk over several decades, and they are found to contain philosophical texts written in Greek. More than six hundred remain unopened and unreadable...

In early 2023 Dr. Seales’s lab achieves a breakthrough: their machine learning model successfully recognizes ink from the X-ray scans, demonstrating that it is possible to apply virtual unwrapping to the Herculaneum scrolls using the scans obtained in 2019, and even uncovering some characters in hidden layers of papyrus.

Fans of science fiction writer James P. Hogan recall the Trimagniscope from his excellent 1977 novel inherit the Stars

The image on the Trimagniscope tube was an enlarged view of one of the pocket-size books found on the body... The scope was adjusted to generate a view that followed the change in density along the boundary layer of the selected page, producing an image of the lower section of the book only; it was as if the upper part had been removed, like a cut deck of cards. Because of the age and condition of the book, however, the characters on the page thus exposed tended to be of poor quality and in some cases were incomplete. The next step would be to scan the image optically with TV cameras and feed the encoded pictures in the Navcomms computer complex. The raw input would then be processed by pattern recognition techniques and statistical techniques to produce a second, enhanced copy with many of the missing character fragments restored.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/7/2023)

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