ITALY - AI Reads Ancient Scroll

Arno Froese

At first glance, the Herculaneum scrolls look unremarkable, like pieces of coal. After surviving the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, the nearly 2,000-year-old documents would crumble if anyone attempted to unroll them, and surviving pieces with writing were considered to be nearly illegible to the human eye—until now. 

The word, “πορφυρας” or “porphyras,” which is the Greek word for purple, was found first by University of Nebraska computer science student Luke Farritor.

The technology was created by University of Kentucky computer science professor Brent Seales and has been in development for nearly 20 years now.

The 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius, a volcano located near Naples, Italy, covered the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in volcanic mud. 

Approximately 1,100 carbonized scrolls, now referred to as the Herculaneum scrolls, were recovered from a building that was believed to be Julius Caesar’s father-in-law’s house, according to the University of Kentucky. 

Farritor and Youssef Nader, a biorobotics graduate student at Freie University Berlin, worked independently of one another and found the same word.

Seales hopes that a partially read scroll, satisfactory with the contest conditions, will be seen by the end of this year, while a whole scroll might be deciphered by the end of 2024. 

“And so even if we learn nothing, but the deep connection that we have to the ancients in terms of humanity, that’s still significant.”, 18 October 2023

Arno's Commentary

It is of interest noticing how much time and energy is spent on the potential deciphering of the contents of this word “porphyras.” Professor Seales believes that any revelation will “still [be] significant,” but that “even if we learn nothing” there is some value to this pursuit.

There is another, much older document, and it is available in virtually all languages of the world—the Bible. The Old Testament, according to several sources, was written between 1200 and 165 BC. Most scholars pinpoint the time of the writing of the New Testament between 50 to 100 AD. Others say it was written during the Roman Empire between 70 and 110 AD. 

What we do know is that the Bible is not a mystery, but the recorded history of God’s plan of redemption; the only book that precisely identifies what has occurred, what is occurring, and what will occur in the future. 

The apostle Peter warns: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11). He then opens a heavenly view for believers: “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (v. 13).

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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