A mathematician from the University of New South Wales in Australia (UNSW) has discovered the oldest artifact of applied geometry – a clay tablet that is at least 3,700 years old. Moreover, it lay for more than a century as an exhibit of the Istanbul Museum, but the researchers did not know what it was. The tablet, named Si.427, was discovered at the end of the 19th century in what is now central Iraq, but before that no one understood its historical significance.
Now considered the oldest example of applied geometry known to mankind, a study published in the journal Foundations of Science details the excavation of a tablet. It notes that Si.427 dates from the Old Babylonian period (OB) – 1900-1600. BC. Lead researcher Daniel Mansfield of the UNSW Science School of Mathematics and Statistics reports.
“This is the only known example of a cadastral document from this period. It is the plan that surveyors used to define the boundaries of the land. An ancient document provides legal and geometric details about a field that split after part of it was sold, ”the researchers noted.
The mathematician believes that he figured out the purpose of this document and deciphered the meaning of the numbers written on it thanks to another plate, Plimpton 322, which he studied five years ago. As he found out, it was marked with numbers that represented the first trigonometric table in history. He found the same numbers on part of the Si.427.
“The discovery and analysis of the tablet has important implications for the history of mathematics. It appeared a thousand years before the birth of Pythagoras, ”the researchers noted.