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Computers Help Decode Ancient Texts

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posted on Aug, 27 2009 @ 04:12 PM

Aug. 27, 2009 -- An ancient, indecipherable text from the Indus Valley region is slowly being decoded with the help of a computer program, according to recent research.

Though it has yet to decrypt this mysterious language, the program may help to decipher other ancient texts whose meanings have been long since forgotten.

"The computer program operates on sequences of symbols, so it can be used to learn a statistical model of any set of unknown or known texts," said Rajesh Rao, a University of Washington professor of computer science and co-author of the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"In fact, such statistical models have been used to analyze a wide variety of sequences ranging from DNA and speech to economic data."

I came across this and thought I would share. This could be huge in terms of understanding the evolution of our ancient past, their knowledge and way of life.


[edit on 27-8-2009 by Aggie Man]

posted on Sep, 3 2009 @ 05:55 PM
Very interesting Aggie. I've never heard of the Indus Valley text. 5,000 artifacts that have never been deciphered. Amazing.

There's no telling what they will say. Could be the breakthrough some on ATS have been waiting for, if they can decipher it.

posted on Sep, 3 2009 @ 08:02 PM
reply to post by Aggie Man

From source:

To start the search for what meaning the text might hold, American and Indian scientists input the symbols into a computer program and then ran a statistical analysis of the symbols and where they appear in the texts. With that information, the program can do many things: create new, hypothetical Indus Valley texts, fill in missing symbols in existing texts, and tell the scientist if a particular text has been generated by their computer model. "We used the latter to show that the Indus texts that have been discovered in West Asia are statistically very different from the texts found in the Indus Valley," said Rao, "suggesting that the Indus people used their script to represent different content or language when living in a foreign land."

So the conclusion so far is that this is a very different text and it doesn't relate will to any known text?

To decipher a text or language you need a Rosetta Stone or something similar. A known language to compare it to that has some meaning already. You can't just look at a symbol and guess the meaning even with a computer.

posted on Sep, 3 2009 @ 08:29 PM
There's a lot of controversy over this one among linguists. It's not certain if the method is actually valid, although it's produced some interesting results. As has been said, we need some sort of "Rosetta stone"; a known text in two languages.

For me, the jury's still out on this.

posted on Sep, 3 2009 @ 11:20 PM
Very interesting, I wonder how if it is possible to decipher a language with out some sort of Rosetta stone to go by? Perhaps the computer can run routines that would take normal deciphering 100's of years to do without a reference point. Knowing computers myself I don't see how, but time will tell.

posted on Sep, 4 2009 @ 12:09 AM
reply to post by Aggie Man

Very interesting post, I had never heard of this before. Can't wait to look up info on it now! Thanks.

I was given a pendant a few years ago, it had four strange letters on it, I hunted and hunted on the net for an answer, finally I found one of the 4 letters and it turned out they were runes. Mystery solved sort of. Still doesn't make sense who made it, it came from 1920's in Louisiana.

posted on Sep, 4 2009 @ 01:59 PM
reply to post by Byrd

Hi Byrd,

Do you have any idea how the computer program works? I'm guessing it has analysed other ancient languages and how they arrange symbols to express ideas. There must be some pattern there. The position of the symbol might make it look more like a verb, noun or adjective. So if it is a birdlike symbol and it is a verb it might mean flying rather than chicken, for example?

posted on Sep, 4 2009 @ 02:04 PM
Here is a link to a Time Magazine article that has additional information:

posted on Sep, 4 2009 @ 02:26 PM
I don't see how there can be uncertainly about the accuracy of this program. All they have to do is give it something to translate that we already know, not giving the computer any info about the language to simulate an unknown language and see how it fairs.

If someone does that then the accuracy of the program will be known.

Have they tried this?

Over and out

posted on Sep, 4 2009 @ 03:36 PM
reply to post by Aggie Man

From the Times article:

Although Harappan cities were vast — Mohenjo-daro could have been populated by as many as 50,000 people, a staggering figure for such deep antiquity — they have left behind few towering monuments or epic ruins. Instead, we have clues in miniature, a copper figurine of a mercurial dancing girl, for example, and a treasure trove of delicately carved seals, most no larger than a postage stamp.

Sort of makes you wonder how an apparently great civilization could have existed parallel to the Sumerians and all we have is archeological evidence. I would think there would have been mention of this civilization or even links to it in the Sumerian and Arkadian texts? Maybe there were?

The article says it may take decades to sort this out!

posted on Sep, 6 2009 @ 01:34 PM
Statistical analysis is a valid method for working on unknown texts. Any one that tells you other wise is a bit daft. Yes, a Rosetta Stone would be a boon, analogous to some one plopping an Enigma Machine in your lap at the start of WWII. Which, btw, is where statistical analysis made significant inroads into what was in the encrypted texts of the time.

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