Mathematical mystery of ancient Babylonian clay tablet solved

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Some Pythagorean triples [credit: Cmglee / Wikipedia]
Could Babylonian base-60 maths be about to make a comeback? The tablet has been dated to between 1822 and 1762 BC and is based on Pythagorean triples, as Phys.org reports. It uses ‘a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles’.

UNSW Sydney scientists have discovered the purpose of a famous 3700-year old Babylonian clay tablet, revealing it is the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, possibly used by ancient mathematical scribes to calculate how to construct palaces and temples and build canals.

The new research shows the Babylonians beat the Greeks to the invention of trigonometry – the study of triangles – by more than 1000 years, and reveals an ancient mathematical sophistication that had been hidden until now.

Known as Plimpton 322, the small tablet was discovered in the early 1900s in what is now…

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