Hard-Hearted Scrolls: Reading the Herculaneum Papyri

Abstract: The scrolls of Herculaneum were sealed away in 79 AD, when the eruption of Mount
Vesuvius buried Herculaneum and nearby Pompeii in many meters of mud, rock, and ash.
Discovered in the 18th century, these scrolls represent the only surviving library from
antiquity. Charred and brittle, the scrolls are too fragile to be opened physically, and many
hundreds remain unopened and unread. This talk will present the modern, noninvasive
efforts to reveal the contents of the scrolls. After two decades of development, techniques
combining X-ray CT imaging, software, and machine learning are enabling the scrolls to be
read for the first time.

Time: 6 PM EST: Reception with Cash Bar
7 PM: Dinner
7:30 PM: Presentation
Location: University of Louisville Golf Club, 401 Champions Way, Simpsonville, KY 40067
Price: $25 members, guests. $5 students.
Menu: Dinner Buffet, Cash Bar
Daniel Cambron
Chair, IEEE Lexington Section
Email: ieee@danielcambron.com
Please RSVP to ieee@danielcambron.com no later than Nov. 29th
Flyer: https://ieeelouisville.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/104/2023/11/IEEE_Holiday_Party_12-7-23.pdf

Speaker: Dr. Stephen Parsons, PhD. Research Adviser, Vesuvius Challenge

Dr. Stephen Parsons is a recent PhD graduate of computer science at the University of
Kentucky. During his PhD, Stephen was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for
his work using machine learning to detect the subtle presence of ink in CT scans of the
Herculaneum scrolls. This work led to the first successful noninvasive recovery of hidden
text from this collection, previously unseen for 2,000 years. Stephen is now a research
advisor for Vesuvius Challenge, a $1,000,000 global research contest launched during his
PhD to extend his methods and scale them across more of the collection.

Co-sponsored by:

Louisville Section of the IEEE
Lexington Section of the IEEE
Life Member Affinity Group (LMAG) of the Louisville Section
Computer Society Chapter (C16) of the Louisville Section
Power & Energy Society Chapter (PE31) of the Louisville Section

Photos by Chris Linnett on Unsplash, K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash, and Toby Elliott on Unsplash.