Summary of “The key to cracking long-dead languages?”

Its texts are mainly written in Sumerian and Akkadian, languages that relatively few scholars can read. Pagé-Perron is coordinating a project to machine translate 69,000 Mesopotamian administrative records from the 21st Century BC. One of the aims is to open up the past to new research.
Originally impressed into the clay with a reed stylus, the texts have already been transliterated into our alphabet by modern scholars.
The wording in these administrative texts is simple: “11 nanny goats for the kitchen on the 15th day”, for example.
Once these algorithms have learned to translate the sample texts into English, they will then automatically translate the other transliterated tablets.
“The texts we’re working on are not very interesting individually, but they’re extremely interesting if you take them as groups of texts,” says Pagé-Perron, who expects the English versions to be online within the next year.
“Sumerian is probably the last member of what must have been a large family of languages that goes back thousands and thousands of years,” says Irving Finkel, the curator in charge of the 130,000 cuneiform tablets stored at the British Museum.
Early cuneiform signs, for example, were not even arranged in a linear text, but simply placed together with a box drawn around them.
Perhaps one day, we will be able to read all of our earliest texts in translation – though many of Mesopotamia’s riddles are likely to outlive us, not least because many missing cuneiform fragments are still in the ground, waiting to be excavated.

The orginal article.