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AI Reveals What Ancient Languages, Including Greek, Sounded Like

Ancient athens
Artificial intelligence (AI) has brought ancient languages to life by demonstrating how they sounded. Credit: Public Domain

Artificial intelligence (AI) has resurrected ancient languages that were once spoken but have only survived in written form. Through video, AI made long-lost languages, including Ancient Greek, Latin, Old English, Proto-Celtic, Hittite and Akkadian, audible again by presenting the unique sounds of past civilizations.

Additionally, AI has created images of individuals speaking, providing glimpses of how people in ancient times may have appeared. Thus, via a technological time machine, this video is akin to listening in on conversations in forgotten marketplaces or hearing ancient speeches given by prominent persons of distant eras.

Oldest World’s Languages

In Mesopotamia, the birthplace of writing according to the scientific community, the earliest form of written communication emerged approximately 5,500 years ago. Initially, it involved simple pictorial signs that evolved into a more complex system known as cuneiform, impressed onto wet clay using a reed stylus.

This innovative writing method played a pivotal role in recording and preserving information, aiding the development of ancient civilizations and dissemination of knowledge.

Sumerian tablet
Sumerian cuneiform writing. Credit: Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Another ancient language originated in Egypt. It boasts a rich history of written language dating back to around 3250 BC, with hieroglyphs found on ivory tablets and ceremonial surfaces. The invention of ink writing using reed brushes and pens in Egypt marked a significant milestone. Hieratic and hieroglyphic scripts coexisted, evolving into a sophisticated writing system that influenced the development of alphabets.

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs from the tomb of Seti I. Credit: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

In China, the earliest traces of writing date back to the late Shang Dynasty (1300–1050 BC), discovered on oracle bones. These ‘dragon bones’ contain over 4,500 symbols, which are ancestors of Modern Chinese characters. Chinese writing has the unique ability to represent both concepts and sounds and has had a profound and enduring impact on human communication.

Mesoamerica reveals a writing tradition dating to around 900 BC, utilized by various cultures such as the Maya, Mixtecs, and Aztecs. Their writing systems served different purposes, from recording texts to reflecting linguistic structures.

Ancient Greek Language Shaping World Culture

Ancient Greek inscription at Delphi
Ancient Greek inscription at Delphi, Greece Credit: Zde / CC BY-SA 4.0 / via Wikimedia Commons

The history of the Ancient Greek language goes back thousands of years and is one of the oldest languages in the world still in use today. It  probably begins with Linear A, which arose around 1900 BC during the Minoan civilization, although its exact connection to Greek remains a mystery.

Phaistos Disc
Phaistos Disc, a disk of fired clay from the island of Crete, possibly from the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (second millennium BC) . Credit: C. Messier/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-4.0

Linear B, which appeared in the Mycenaean civilization around 1450 BC, was successfully deciphered in the mid-20th century, revealing it to be an early form of Greek used primarily for administrative and economic purposes.

After the decline of the Mycenaean civilization around 1100 BC and the ensuing Greek Dark Ages, the Greek language resurfaced in the 9th century BC with the adoption of the Greek alphabet. This marked the beginning of the Greek classical period, which revolutionized written communication and produced famous literary and philosophical works.

Throughout its history, the Greek language has continued to evolve, influencing different cultures and languages at various times. Its enduring legacy continues today, influencing Western civilization in areas such as literature, philosophy, science, and mathematics.

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