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Experts Translated This 3,700 Year Old Tablet, And The Discovery They Made Has Rewritten History von watchJojo   1 year ago


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At Australia’s University of New South Wales, a team of academics is poring over a slab of ancient clay. Slowly, they come to a shocking realization about the rows and columns etched across its surface – and it’s a revelation that will change everything we think we know about mathematics.

The story begins back in the early 1900s, when American archaeologist Edgar Banks was exploring an area that today is part of southern Iraq. As a lover of antiquities, Banks spent much of his career buying up ancient artifacts during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.

In fact, Banks was so fascinated by treasures from the past that some have speculated he may have been the inspiration for George Lucas’ fictional archaeologist Indiana Jones. And at the beginning of the 20th century, he made the discovery that would make him famous.

It was around that time that Banks came into possession of a strange tablet. At approximately five inches wide and three and a half inches tall, it was covered in mysterious etchings. Banks told people that it had been discovered in Senkereh, which is thought to be the site of Larsa, an ancient Sumerian city.

But Banks didn’t hold onto the relic, instead selling it in about 1922 to George Arthur Plimpton, a New York publisher. Then, some time in the mid 1930s, Plimpton donated it to Columbia University. Since that time, the discovery has been known as Plimpton 322, and it has attracted attention from academics around the world.

Created some 3,700 years ago, the tablet originates from a time when the Babylonians ruled Larsa. An ancient people that thrived in central-southern Mesopotamia, they have left many relics scattered around what is now modern-day Iraq.

Considering the era, the Babylonians were an incredibly advanced civilization. In fact, they have been credited with inventing many objects still used in modern times, such as the seeder plow and glazed bricks. On top of that, they are thought to have been pioneers in astronomy, medicine and literature.

Additionally, the Babylonians are known today for their impressive grasp of mathematics. So when experts interpreted the scratches and lines on Plimpton 322 as rows and columns of numbers, many scholars came forward in an attempt to interpret the find.

However, the true meaning of Plimpton 322 remained elusive. Then, Dr. Daniel Mansfield from the University of New South Wales’ School of Mathematics and Statistics stumbled across an article about the tablet while preparing a lesson for his students.

Intrigued, Mansfield teamed up with Dr. Norman Wildberger, an associate professor at the university. Soon, they realized that the inscriptions on the tablet bore some similarity to Wildberger’s work on trigonometry, as laid out in his book Divine Proportions: Rational Trigonometry to Universal Geometry.


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