Missing text on 4,500-year-old cuneiform tablets can be decoded by a deep-learning AI that works like autosuggestions on a smartphone

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  • Cuneiform, which uses wedge-shaped vessels, survives today mainly on damaged clay tablets.
  • Then they fed the AI ​​written transcriptions of about 10,000 cuneiform tablets dated from about 10,000 BC to AD 100
  • Model scanned transcription and accurately predicted missing words, phrases and sentences
  • On a test using known sections of the tablet, the model achieved about 90 percent accuracy.

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An artificial-intelligence program is able to predict missing words from cuneiform tablets that are 4,500 years old with astonishing accuracy.

The tablets contain information about Mesopotamia between 2500 BC and 100 AD, but the missing text has hindered scientists’ abilities to uncover the secrets of the ancient civilization.

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The AI, which was taught to read 104 languages, was given transcriptions of 10,000 cuneiform tablets.

It accurately predicts missing words, phrases and sentences, just like the autosuggest feature on your phone suggests the next line.

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Mesopotamia is one of the oldest known civilizations in the world and gave rise to the Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian empires.

A deep-thinking AI system called the Babylonian Engine is able to scan a damaged cuneiform tablet and predict relevant precise words and phrases to fill in the missing parts.

Part of the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia spanned parts of present-day Iraq as well as Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Kuwait.

It is considered the birthplace of mathematics, astronomy, agriculture, written history and many other subjects.

Many Mesopotamian civilizations, including the Babylonians and Assyrians, spoke Akkadian, the oldest known Semitic language.

He wrote in cuneiform, a writing form that employed wedge-shaped characters and survives today mainly on clay tablets.

Part of the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia spanned parts of present-day Iraq as well as Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Kuwait.

Part of the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia spanned parts of present-day Iraq as well as Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Kuwait.

These tablets are the main records from the cultures of Mesopotamia, including religious texts, bureaucratic records, royal decrees and more, the authors wrote. in a paper It is being presented in November at the Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing. ‘Therefore they are the target of extensive transcription and transliteration efforts.’

But tablets have deteriorated over the millennia and researchers often have to rely on contextual prompts to manually fill in missing text.

This is a process the authors call ‘subjective and time-consuming’.

So they developed a deep learning AI system that can make educated guesses on missing words and phrases.

He used a model that was already trained in other Semitic languages, such as Hebrew, which share similarities with Akkadian.

They first tested the system by hiding existing parts of the tablet, and the model completed sections with 89 percent accuracy.

A clay tablet with its corresponding Latin transliteration.  Parts of text that are missing due to malformation are indicated with an 'x' and highlighted in red.

A clay tablet with its corresponding Latin transliteration. Parts of text that are missing due to malformation are indicated with an ‘x’ and highlighted in red.

Sometimes the model threw [the experts] ‘They didn’t have a new line of thinking,’ said co-author Gabriel Stanowski, a computer scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. new scientist.

He then fed the AI ​​written transcriptions of about 10,000 cuneiform tablets, from 2500 BC, when Mesopotamia was politically fragmented, to AD 100, when parts of it were under Roman control.

The system was able to suggest contextually accurate words and phrases to fill in gaps, or gaps.

Stanowski told New Scientist that AI programs are “a helpful tool,” not a replacement for human experts.

‘Archaeologists note more references to the tablet,’ he said. ‘They know where it was excavated, know where and geopolitical forces – and take that into account.’

Archaeologist Shia Gordin, director of the Digital Humanities Ariel Lab at Israel’s Ariel University, previously used an AI system, the Babylonian Engine, to fill in gaps in the documents of the Persian Empire between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE.

In a statement From November, Gordin said, ‘Historians with less formal training in Akkadian may try to penetrate the Akkadian text and obtain results that are appropriate in their research and publications.’

He said, “For scholars of ancient Near Eastern history, this tool can aid in their work on textual editions and go back to older publications in an attempt to restore broken sections of texts.”

Researchers have already used AI to decipher damaged carvings from ancient Greece.

Scientists at DeepMind, a Google AI subsidiary, trained a neural network called Pythia to guess missing words or characters from thousands of Greek inscriptions between 1,500 and 2,600 years old.

Named for the oracle at Delphi, the Pythia recognized patterns in grammar, context, and layout, Tech Crunch Reported, and provided 20 different possible answers.

The AI ​​achieved nearly 70 percent accuracy, compared to a group of Oxford University graduate researchers who were about 43 percent correct.

In addition, the Pythia gave their suggestions in seconds for the entire set, while the pros took two hours to obtain 50 inscriptions.

Like Stanowski, DeepMind scientist Yannis Asel AI . looks at as a collaborative tool, with an ‘ability to meaningfully influence the study of inscribed texts and to broaden the scope of the historian’s work’.

Mesopotamia is known as the ‘Cradle of Civilization’, but why did it become so great?

A historical region of the Middle East now known as Iraq, but extending to include parts of Syria and Turkey.

The word Mesopotamia comes from Greek, meaning ‘between two rivers’.

The two rivers mentioned by the name are the Tigris River and the Euphrates.

Unlike many other empires (such as the Greek and Roman) Mesopotamia consisted of many different cultures and groups.

Mesopotamia should be understood more properly as a region that produced …

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