The Herculaneum papyri are a collection of ancient Greek philosophical and literary scrolls buried under volcanic ash in 79 CE.
Significant works by Epicurus, Philodemus, and Seneca cover ethics, politics, astronomy, and medicine, and their discovery revolutionized classical studies.
They remained preserved until their discovery in the 18th century.
Though extremely fragile, advances in technology have allowed scholars to read the previously illegible manuscripts, providing continued insight into the intellectual life of the ancient world.
Resurrect an ancient library from the ashes of a volcano. Win a prize
After 275 years, the ancient puzzle of the Herculaneum Papyri has been reduced to a software problem – one that you can help solve!
The Vesuvius Challenge is a machine learning and computer vision competition to read the Herculaneum Papyri. In early 2023, Dr. Seales’s lab made a breakthrough, successfully recognizing ink from the X-ray scans, making it possible to uncover some characters in the hidden layers of papyrus.
The ancient puzzle of the Herculaneum Papyri has been reduced to a software problem.
The competition requires reading four passages of text from the two intact scrolls, with strict rules on legibility and linguistic validity. A review team consisting of technical experts and papyrologists will assess all submissions.
The winners will work with the organizers to verify their results and co-publish them in academic venues.
The code will be made public under an open-source license for others to reproduce and build on it. The discovery of these previously illegible manuscripts provides continued insight into the intellectual life of the ancient world.