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Jerusalem - Israeli Team Working to Decipher Ancient Texts

Published on: September 3, 2009 05:54 PM
By: AP
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Jerusalem - Israeli researchers said Thursday they are developing a computer program to make ancient documents more legible and easily indexed, which could eventually lead to a searchable catalog of archived historical texts.

The program, which is being developed by a team of computer scientists and historians at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, would make the faded, smudged or overwritten words in ancient texts easier to read.

The program can also be used to determine which documents are original through a process called writer identification, said Jihad El-Sana, a researcher on the project and assistant professor of computer science.

“We are developing a kind of technology to enhance documents’ visual (properties) for two reasons — to make them easier to read and because we want to archive and index them,” El-Sana said Thursday.

As more and more documents are digitized, the kind of program the team is developing would cut the time it takes to study these ancient texts, said Daphna Weinshall, a computer science professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

“If they can just digitize these documents, machines are much more efficient than humans. Once it’s on the computer, they can do it a lot easier,” Weinshall said.

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The technology could also be used to piece together fragments of texts housed in different locations throughout the world.

El-Sana said the team hopes to create a system by which historians can search through the images of a document and find the words they seek, cutting down the time it takes historians to pore over documents.

“We’re trying to ... utilize the talents of the human being better and save human hours,” El-Sana said.

The researchers have worked mainly with ancient Hebrew and Arabic texts.

An open source program could be available to researchers for download in three years, but the algorithms would need more “refinement” before they are ready for the general public, El-Sana added.


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Read Comments (4)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Sep 03, 2009 at 06:18 PM Askupeh Says:

The part that it will used to piece together fragments of texts housed in different locations throughout the world and that creating a system by which historians can search through the images of a document and find the words they seek, cutting down the time it takes historians to pore over documents, makes sense and is an excellent idea. We already utilize such tools like Oitzer Hachocmah and Hebrewbooks.org; but I wonder how in the world will they make faded, smudged or overwritten words in ancient texts easier to read? Handwriting recognition software have been here already for a while, but it doesn’t recognize faded, smudged or overwritten words, even in plain English so how will it do it to ancient script (like Ksav Ivri) where the letters aren’t uniform?

2

 Sep 04, 2009 at 12:35 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Askupeh Says:

The part that it will used to piece together fragments of texts housed in different locations throughout the world and that creating a system by which historians can search through the images of a document and find the words they seek, cutting down the time it takes historians to pore over documents, makes sense and is an excellent idea. We already utilize such tools like Oitzer Hachocmah and Hebrewbooks.org; but I wonder how in the world will they make faded, smudged or overwritten words in ancient texts easier to read? Handwriting recognition software have been here already for a while, but it doesn’t recognize faded, smudged or overwritten words, even in plain English so how will it do it to ancient script (like Ksav Ivri) where the letters aren’t uniform?

By coming up with a new algorithm it will be able to read these ancient text. as for smudges and fading (just a guess), if the computer can't recognise some of the letters or words it will ask the human.

3

 Sep 04, 2009 at 09:14 AM Askupeh Says:

Any algorithm cannot see more then a human. The algorithm only translates human criteria in a set of rules for the computer to follow in the quickest way possible. Ancient seals with Hebrew script need more then just the eye to decipher it, unless the letters are pristine and complete, and for those who needs a computer?

4

 Sep 04, 2009 at 08:44 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
Askupeh Says:

The part that it will used to piece together fragments of texts housed in different locations throughout the world and that creating a system by which historians can search through the images of a document and find the words they seek, cutting down the time it takes historians to pore over documents, makes sense and is an excellent idea. We already utilize such tools like Oitzer Hachocmah and Hebrewbooks.org; but I wonder how in the world will they make faded, smudged or overwritten words in ancient texts easier to read? Handwriting recognition software have been here already for a while, but it doesn’t recognize faded, smudged or overwritten words, even in plain English so how will it do it to ancient script (like Ksav Ivri) where the letters aren’t uniform?

the way they read it is by eliminating all other possibilities that a non clear letter can have , the software can go thru them much faster

5

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