NVIDIA GPU Used To Decipher An Ancient Roman Scroll Scores Student A Huge Prize

nvidia gpu scroll hero
Luke Farritor, computer science student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is $40,000 richer after deciphering a snippet of text from the Herculaneum scrolls as part of the Vesuvius Challenge. Farritor was able to accomplish this using a fairly ancient, at least by gamer standards, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070. Even though this GPU was released in 2016 it was still powerful enough for this project.

According to NVIDIA, “In a significant breakthrough, the word “πορφυρας,” which means “purple dye” or “cloths of purple,” emerged from the ancient texts thanks to the efforts of Farritor.” Identifying these 10 letters will go a long way towards being able to translate everything else found in the scrolls.

Thanks to the Vesuvius Challenge, a competition with several cash prizes up for grabs, historians and technologists worldwide are now seeking to decipher more of the ancient scrolls. It’s building on the work of W. Brent Seales, chair of the University of Kentucky Computer Science Department, who NVIDIA states “has dedicated over a decade to developing methods to digitally unfurl and read the delicate Herculaneum scrolls.”

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Card

Youssef Nader, a biorobotics graduate student, got similar results to Farritor, which resulted in a prize of $10,000. Entrepreneur Casey Handmer also won $10,000 after demonstrating that there is a significant amount of ink waiting to be discovered within the scrolls.

Private donors are now supercharging these efforts by making a prize of $700,000 available to anyone who can decipher four distinct passages containing at least 140 characters by the end of 2023. It is thanks to these donors that there are now 1,500 experts looking to meet the challenge.

This is important work because the scrolls are incredibly fragile. To unfurl them would mean destroying them, which had made them impossible to read before the advent of advanced imaging along with Artificial Intelligence.