It is world known that the Greek math genius Pythagoras formed the Pythagorean Theorem and proved that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides of a triangle.
Barely someone knows that around 1,000 years before he did that, a mysterious Babylonian genius took a clay tablet and a reed pen and noted the very same theorem and a sequence of trigonometry tables more precise than the ones today.
The old and broken clay tablet is old more than 3,700 years and its location now is in the collection of the Colombia University.
University in New South Wales in Sidney claim that the four columns and 15 rows of cuneiform – wedge-shaped indentations made in the wet clay are actually the world’s oldest trigonometric table which could have been used for building temples and pyramids.
The legendary finesse of Babylonian architecture and engineering is born with the digging. Some experts even say that The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are actually were meant to be a pyramid with a perplexing watering system and one of the seven wonders in the ancient times.
Daniel Mansfield from the mathematics and science field in the University of Sidney talked about the tablet describing it as a feature that can decipher some of their methods as “a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius”. He says that the tablet has potential with the help of a modernized application to do calculations on base 60, used by Babylonians, which will be more accurate than the contemporary base 10.
The tablet called Plimpton 322, ever since it was brought to Columbia University by George Plimpton in 1930; it was a subject of debate among mathematicians. George Plimpton bought the tablet from Edgar Banks who was a diplomat, archaeological amateur and dealer with antique objects.
Even though mathematicians agree that the tablet is the forerunner of the Pythagorean Theorem, Mansfield says that there hadn’t been any decisions about the very use of it.
The researchers apply that the tablet depicts the forms of right – angle triangles using an original way of trigonometry based on proportions and not angles and circles. It is undoubted that whoever created the tablet was a mathematical genius.
“The tablet not only contains the world’s oldest trigonometric table; it is also the only completely accurate trigonometric table, because of the very different Babylonian approach to arithmetic and geometry. This means it has great relevance for our modern world. Babylonian mathematics may have been out of fashion for more than 3,000 years, but it has possible practical applications in surveying, computer graphics and education. This is a rare example of the ancient world teaching us something new.”
The clay tablet not only precedes Pythagoras and his theorem but it also is the herald of the Greek astronomer Hipparchus or the father of trigonometry.
Wildberger stated that the tablet is made more than 1,000 years before Hipparchus made his impact and it is a gate to new chances not just for young mathematicians but also for contemporary math schools.
Wildberger and Mansfield consider that the Babylonian maths is still left to be undiscovered with the time and the constant research.
They think that there is a wealth of Babylonian tablets and unfortunately only some of them are being studied. The world of mathematics in the distant past has so much to teach us.
These two mathematical geniuses also imply that Plimpton 322 at the start had six columns and 38 rows. It was an apparatus for not only teaching and calculations but also for working, observing and creating an architectural calculation for temples, palaces or step pyramids.
In 1945, the Austrian mathematician Otto Neugebauer and his fellow colleague Abraham Sachs suggested that Plimpton 322 has 15 pairs of numbers forming segments of Pythagorean triples.