Artificial Intelligence deciphers 5,000-year-old texts

The history of humanity's oldest civilization are being revealed with the help of Artificial Intelligence.


Scientists from Tel Aviv University, in Israel, created an Artificial Intelligence capable of translating tablets with Akkadian cuneiform texts into English.

The Akkadian language was used more than 5 thousand years ago, between 3,000 BC and 100 AD, in Mesopotamia and the Near East, the cradle of humanity’s oldest civilization.

It is a later language than Sumerian, although both share the cuneiform technique of writing on clay tablets.


There are hundreds of thousands of tablets documenting the political, social, economic and scientific history of ancient Mesopotamia, researchers said.

“The majority of these documents remain untranslated, making their content inaccessible due to the large number of texts and a limited number of experts capable of reading and translating them,” the scientists stated.

Cylinder of Antiochus with Akkadian inscriptions.

The researchers initially used Artificial Intelligence to convert Akkadian cuneiform into Latin, achieving an accuracy of 97%.

This approach simplifies the translation process that previously required several steps.

However, translating directly from Akkadian to English is more complicated, as it involves constructing coherent English sentences from cuneiform symbols.

Although the technology is in its early stages, Artificial Intelligence demonstrates better performance than expected.

The translation made by Artificial Intelligence achieved greater accuracy in texts such as royal decrees or divinations compared to literary and poetic texts, such as letters from priests or treaties.

“Translating all the tablets can expose us to the early days of history, the civilization of those people, what they believed, what they talked about and what they documented,” said study leader Gai Gutherz, scientist at Tel Aviv University.