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3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet reveals ancient mathematical wisdom

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The tablet, known as “Plimpton 322,” might change the way we understand scientific history.

We have all at least heard about Pythagoras, but unless you are a mathematics scholar, chances are you’ve never heard about “Plimpton 322.” This 3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet containing trigonometric knowledge at least “3,000 years ahead of its time,” according to Daniel Mansfield and Norman Wildberger of Australia’s University of New South Wales.

As reported by Open Culture, “Plimpton 322” was discovered in southern Iraq in the early 1900s, and has been dated to sometime between 1822 and 1762 BC. This dating makes the tablet’s trigonometry at least 1,000 years earlier than that of Pythagoras and Hipparchus, who have been both traditionally credited with the discovery of trigonometry. Moreover, according to Mansfield, this tablet is not only a fascinating archaeological piece: it also “has great relevance for our modern world … practical applications in surveying, computer graphics and education.”

You can watch Mansfield unfolding the details on “Plimpton 322” in the video below.

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