You too can decipher ancient texts

Thanks to The History Blog for pointing out a fascinating research project in which YOU get to decipher for-real ancient mysterious texts.  The Oxyrynchus Papyri were discovered by a couple of archaeologists, over a hundred years ago, in an ancient garbage tip.  The problem is, they're in a zillion tiny pieces.  And of course fragment shapes don't match precisely because papyrus has worn away and they don't necessarily have all the bits.  They need to identify the letters on all the fragments, so a computer can then speedily push bits back and forth until everything forms valid ancient Greek words.

So now Oxford University's enlisted the help of some astrophysicists, who are very good at sticking lots of tiny pictures together, to build a site where anyone can help them by identifying the letters on the fragments.  They need our help because computers are not conspicuously good at identifying handwritten ancient Greek.  People however are good at that sort of thing, even if they don't know a word of the language.

It's known for sure that there are some major lost works hidden in those fragments.  They've already pulled out parts of a lost play by Euripides.  

But if you come across any fragments that say Ἀτλαντὶς, just pass over them quietly, okay?


CPatLarge said...

Very cool!

And one more thing to procrastinate with ;-)

I need more hours in the day, or another lifetime or two.

li said...

I'll check it out. I'm doubtful that I can contribute much, but it will look good on my resume.
"Translates ancient texts in spare time..."
Most interesting post of the day.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

This is very cool....

C. N. Nevets said...

Stop drooling, Nevets!

Gary Corby said...

It is rather cool, isn't it? I've been doing some more, and it's quite remarkable how you can lose track of the fact that you're reading something a couple of thousand years old, while you concentrate on spotting the symbol.