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Cipher war: to crack ancient script, linguists turn to machines
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-01-31 03:51:39

Though we now have thousands of examples of these symbols, we have very little idea what they mean. Over a century after Cunningham's discovery, the seals remain undeciphered, their messages lost to us. Are they the letters of an ancient language? Or are they just religious, familial, or political symbols? Those hotly contested questions have sparked infighting among scholars and exacerbated cultural rivalries over who can claim the script as their heritage. But new work from researchers using sophisticated algorithms, machine learning, and even cognitive science are finally helping push us to the edge of cracking the Indus script.

The Indus Valley Civilization and the mysteries that surround it are deeply fascinating. It was contemporary to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, yet we know relatively little about it. It honestly blows my mind that computers can now be used to decipher its ancient script, which may give us a lot of insight into this civilisation.

Like in programming, language is key.

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