University of Kentucky challenged computer scientists to reveal contents of carbonised papyrus, a ‘potential treasure trove for historians’

When the blast from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius reached Herculaneum in AD79, it burned hundreds of ancient scrolls to a crisp in the library of a luxury villa and buried the Roman town in ash and pumice.

The disaster appeared to have destroyed the scrolls for good, but nearly 2,000 years later researchers have extracted the first word from one of the texts, using artificial intelligence to peer deep inside the delicate, charred remains.

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