Computers piece lore

Saturday 15 June 2013

Digitisation>> History • Israel

A fragment found in the Cairo GenizaMore than 100 linked computers in a basement room at Tel Aviv University are reassembling the Cairo Geniza, a collection of 320,000 fragments of parchment and paper documents reflecting Jewish life in Egypt since the ninth century.

The network of computers is conducting 4.5 trillion calculations per second to piece together the papers scattered in 67 libraries and private collections around the world. Recovered in 1896 from a storeroom of the Ben Ezra synagogue in Old Cairo, the pages include parts of Torah scrolls and prayer books, poetry, recipes and personal letters.

The intelligent software analyses 500 visual cues for each of 157,514 fragments, to check a total of 12,405,251,341 possible pairings.

By the time the project ends after almost a month on June 25, the computer will have made 12 billion visual comparisons between pieces. Some 4,000 matches have been made in more than a century of research.

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