AI may have decoded mysterious 600-year-old manuscript | Inquirer Technology

AI may have decoded mysterious 600-year-old manuscript

/ 01:15 PM January 30, 2018

Image: Yale University

Researchers may have found a way to decode one of the most mysterious texts in human history using artificial intelligence.

Researchers from the University of Alberta trained an AI to go through the mysterious 600-year-old Voynich manuscript.


According to the university’s statement, the AI deduced that the language used to write the manuscript was Hebrew.


Computing science professor Greg Kondrak and graduate student Bradley Hauer trained their AI using the text from the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” written in 400 different languages.

“That was surprising,” said Kondrak. “And just saying ‘this is Hebrew’ is the first step. The next step is how do we decipher it.”

The Voynich manuscript holds two key mysteries: the language it was written and how it was written. Experts believe the manuscript was written in a code that makes its content appear as gibberish to linguists and scholars.

Image: Yale University

The AI’s algorithm strongly pointed at Hebrew as being the language used. Kondar and Hauer also found that 80 percent of the words in the manuscript were in the Hebrew dictionary.

“It turned out that over 80 percent of the words were in a Hebrew dictionary, but we didn’t know if they made sense together,” said Kondrak.

With these findings in mind, scientists tried to translate the first few words from the manuscript using Google Translate. What came out was, “’she made recommendations to the priest, man of the house and me and people.’ It came up with a sentence that is grammatical, and you can interpret it,” Kondrak said.


He added, “It’s a kind of strange sentence to start a manuscript but it definitely makes sense.”

They are still trying to gain assistance from Hebrew language scholars to validate their findings.

Cryptologists and other researchers have all tried to decipher the Voynich manuscript in the past, to no avail. Now that a particular language for it has been pinned down, perhaps the road to discovering what’s written in the text can finally move forward. /ra


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