The mysterious dialect of our ancient ancestors could finally be deciphered in full thanks to artificial intelligence.
A million cuneiform tablets still exist in the world, experts estimate, but these writings left behind by ancient Mesopotamians require tedious work by archaeologists to translate and catalog their contents.
It has been estimated that 90 percent of cuneiform texts remain untranslated.
But now, a team of German researchers has figured out a new way to train computers to recognize cuneiform and even make the contents of millennia-old tablets searchable like a website, making it possible to digitize and assemble larger libraries of these ancient texts.
This could unlock previously unknown details about ancient life, as the tablets contained details about feats as significant as temple construction, all the way down to squabbles as petty as customer service complaints.
The German academics trained an AI on two cuneiform languages, Sumerian and Akkadian.
Sumerian was spoken starting about 5,000 years ago, and it was eventually replaced with Akkadian, but both languages were used in writing until the beginning of the Christian era in Mesopotamia, which occupied modern-day Iraq and parts of what became Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and Turkey.