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    AI Cracks Ancient Code: Plato’s Burial Site Revealed in Charred Papyrus

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    History buffs, rejoice! A new discovery using artificial intelligence (AI) sheds light on the long-held mystery of Plato’s final resting place. The University of Pisa in Italy announced last week that they were able to decipher text preserved on charred pieces of papyrus unearthed in Herculaneum, an ancient Roman town buried by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

    This revelation, detailed in a Live Science report, isn’t just about one philosopher’s final resting place. The papyrus, containing writings by Philodemus of Gadara (an Epicurean philosopher who lived around 110-30 BC), offers a glimpse into the history of Plato’s Academy, a renowned institution founded in the 4th century BC.

    While historians knew the Academy housed Plato’s remains, its exact location within the grounds remained a puzzle for centuries. The eruption of Vesuvius, while devastating, also preserved a wealth of historical information in the form of ash-entombed artifacts. This particular papyrus, part of the Naples National Library collection, held the key to unlocking the mystery.

    Modern technology proved to be the missing piece. Scientists employed a combination of techniques like infrared, ultraviolet, thermal imaging, and tomography to read the charred scrolls. Their efforts yielded significant results: roughly 30%, or about 1,000 words, of Philodemus’ text were identified.

    The most captivating discovery lies within the deciphered text: confirmation of Plato’s burial site. “Researchers wrote in a statement,” the report highlights, “that Plato was buried in the garden reserved for him…of the Academy in Athens, near the so-called Museion or sacellum sacred to the Muses.” This not only pinpoints the location but also reveals a previously unknown detail – the presence of a dedicated private area within the Academy for the Platonic school.

    The papyrus also offered new insights into Plato’s life. Researchers found evidence suggesting he was “sold into slavery” sometime between 404 and 399 BC, revising the previously believed date of 387 BC. Additionally, the text describes a conversation where Plato criticizes the musical abilities of a Thracian musician.

    This isn’t the first time AI has assisted in deciphering ancient scrolls lost to the wrath of Vesuvius. Researchers previously employed similar techniques to analyze a scroll unearthed from a villa that once belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law.

    The University of Pisa’s breakthrough demonstrates the power of AI in unlocking the secrets of the past. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect even more fascinating discoveries to emerge from the ashes of history.

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