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3,700-year-old Babylonian ‘tablet’ found: ‘Through air’ or intelligence?

Known as Si.427, this tablet carries a field map measuring the boundaries of several lands.

The Si.427 tablet computer dates from the Old Babylonian period between 1900 and 1600 BC and was discovered in the late 19th century in what is now Baghdad, Iraq. It was placed in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum (Turkey) before Dr. Daniel Mansfield from the University of New South Wales (Australia) discovered it.

The significance of this tablet was unknown until Dr Mansfield’s work was revealed (Image: UNSW Sydney).

Earlier, Dr Daniel Mansfield and Norman Wildberger, an associate professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) – Australia, identified another tablet in Babylon that contained the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table. gender. At the time, they speculated the tablet might have been used in practice, possibly in surveying or construction.

Close-up of ancient tablet

That tablet, called Plimpton 322, described right triangles using a Pythagorean triple: Three integers where the sum of the squares of the first two is equal to the square of the third – for example, 32 + 42 = 52.

The arrival of Plimpton 322 sets Dr. Daniel Mansfield on a quest to find other tablets of the same period that contain the Pythagorean triple, consisting of the three positive integers a, b and c, such that a² + b² = c²]. Finally, Si.427 appeared!

Today’s Tablet

“Si.427 is like a piece of land for sale in miniature. In cuneiform writing, with its characteristic cuneiform indents, Si.427 describes a field with marshy areas, as well as a floor nearby dams and towers.

The rectangles depicting the field have opposite sides of equal length, suggesting that surveyors of the time devised a way to create more precise perpendiculars than before,” said Dr Daniel Mansfield. .

“Like us today, when a person tries to figure out the boundaries of their land, they use a GPS device, and in the old days, they used the Pitago triad.”

The mighty Babylonian Empire at that time

Amazing thing

And a fact that surprised scientists is that, although Plimpton 322 and Si.427 both used Pythagorean triples, THEY ARE PRESENTED BEFORE the Greek mathematician Pythagoras more than 1,000 years.

[Pythagoras (French pronunciation: Pythagorean) is considered the “father of arithmetic”. He is best known for his Pythagorean Theorem of the right triangle: a2 + b2 = c2, where c is the length of the hypotenuse, and a and b are the lengths of the two sides of the right angle].

Dr. Mansfield said: “Once you understand what a Pythagorean triple is, your society has reached a specific level of mathematical sophistication. Si.427 contains three Pythagorean triples: 3, 4, 5; 8, 15, 17; and 5, 12, 13”.

The Babylonians used the base 60 numbering system – The Babylonian base 60 system is the foundation for today we divide 1 minute into 60 seconds, 1 hour into 60 minutes and a circle with 360 degrees – making work with primes greater than 5 becomes difficult.

The Si.427 tablet, described in a study in the journal Foundations Of Science, dates back to a period of increasing private land ownership.

Dr. Mansfield said: “We now know what the Babylonians needed it to solve. You see, mathematics is being developed to solve the needs of the times.”

One thing that baffles Dr. Mansfield about Si.427 is the gender decimal “25:29” – similar to 25 minutes and 29 seconds – engraved in large font on the back of the tablet.

“Is that part of the calculation they’ve done? Is it an area I’m not familiar with? Is it a measurement of something? I’m really upset because there’s so much about the tablets of the ancients. Their brains are great!”, Dr. Mansfield concludes.