Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Software to decipher ancient documents

BTW, for those of you who may have this blog in your RSS list and have given up hope on seeing any post from here again... Since my last post on July 23, I have sold a house (cleaned, fixed, packed, moved), bought a house (moved in and still unpacking... got the Internet and wireless up right away!), brought our eldest to start college (more packing, moving, etc.), taught a 2+ week-long intensive Greek class, and am struggling to finish up some reports and a publishing project. I've got a whole bunch of stuff backed up, but here was a quick and easy link just to show I still exist. (>>> I blog, therefore I am?)

Excerpts from a Reuters account (and HERE is the full article):

BEERSHEBA, Israel (Reuters) – Researchers in Israel say they have developed a computer program that can decipher previously unreadable ancient texts and possibly lead the way to a Google-like search engine for historical documents.

The program uses a pattern recognition algorithm similar to those law enforcement agencies have adopted to identify and compare fingerprints.

But in this case, the program identifies letters, words and even handwriting styles, saving historians and liturgists hours of sitting and studying each manuscript.

By recognizing such patterns, the computer can recreate with high accuracy portions of texts that faded over time or even those written over by later scribes...
It concludes with this interesting observation:

Uri Ehrlich, an expert in ancient prayer texts who works with Bar-Yosef's team of computer scientists, said that with the help of the program, years of research could be done within a matter of minutes.

"When enough texts have been digitized, it will manage to combine fragments of books that have been scattered all over the world," Ehrlich said.

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