A new computer program developed by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently stunned the world by accurately deciphering cuneiform symbols dated back to the Biblical period. Scientists claim this technological success will open new ways of understanding ancient hieroglyphics, making it easier to determine historical facts, as well as revive forgotten languages. How is this possible?
The archaeological discovery of Ugaritic Akkadian script in 1928 at the seaport of Ugarit has long since enlightened many on ancient Israelite culture and Biblical texts. Last used around 1200 B.C. in western Syria, this “lost language” took four years for language specialists to decode, and the diligence that paved way for many more explorations and breakthroughs has now led to another innovative milestone.
MIT’s computer program is able to compare symbols and word frequencies and patterns written in Ugaritic Akkadian with those of a known language, and by means of repeated analysis, links letters and words to map nearly all Ugaritic Akkadian symbols to their Hebrew equivalents, in merely a matter of hours.
This invention shows us how technology can effectively resurrect dead scripts, contrary to claims that computers lack the natural instinct to do so. However, we still have a long way to go. It will be interesting to see whether the program can help decipher a handful of ancient scripts such as Etruscan and Indus (Harrapan), and those that have long been forgotten, leaving them utterly incomprehensible.