Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new computer programme which is capable of automatically decoding ancient languages and translate them into known languages.
The programme could help the researchers decode some the scripts in ancient languages. It has already successfully decoded three-thousand-year-old Ugaritic language. The Ugaritic was in use around 1200 BC in western Syria and consists of dots on clay tablets.
The language was discovered in 1920 but was not deciphered until 1932. The researchers gave reference to the Hebrew language in order to evaluate the efficiency which is similar to Ugaritic.
The programme makes assumptions about how the words are formed and if they use a prefix and a suffix. It was able to map nearly all Ugaritic symbols to their Hebrew equivalents in few hours.
Professor Regina Barzilay who lead the research said, "Traditionally, decipherment has been viewed as a sort of scholarly detective game, and computers weren't thought to be of much use.
"Our aim is to bring to bear the full power of modern machine learning and statistics to this problem," he added.
The programme searched for common symbols and then slowly refines its mapping of the alphabets. Ugaritic language has 30 alphabets and the programme was able to map 29 of them to their counterparts in Hebrew.
Critics of the research say that many ancient languages do not have similar languages to which they can be mapped. "It's not always going to be the case that there are closely related languages that one can use," according to Richard Sproat, an Oregon Health and Science University computational linguist.