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Archaeology News - Babylonian clay tablet containing trigonometric table predating Pythagoras by 1,000 years

1 September 2017

plimptontablet andrew kelly UNSW

A Babylonian clay tablet, Plimpton 322, housed in the collections of Columbia University, has been studied by researchers for over a century. The tablet has been dated, based on comparisons of writing styles with other Babylonian tablets, to between 1822 and 1762 BC putting it at about 3,700 years old.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney believe the four columns and 15 rows of cuneiform on the tablet is the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, predating Greek mathematician Pythagoras by 1,000 years.

The Guardian and ABC have brief articles on their websites about the findings and Daniel Manfield and Norman Wildberger of UNSW have published there research in the Journal Historia Mathematica.

Photograph: Andrew Kelly - UNSW