Ancient Clay Tablet Showed that Applied Geometry was Used in Babylon 1,000 Years Before Pythagoras

An ancient clay tablet that's been hiding in plain sight in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum in Turkey for over a century turned out to be the oldest example of applied geometry.

The 3,700-year-old tablet known as Si.427 dated from the Old Babylonian period. "It’s the only known example of a cadastral document from the OB period, which is a plan used by surveyors to define land boundaries," said Daniel Mansfield of University of New South Wales in Australia. "In this case, it tells us legal and geometric details about a field that’s split after some of it was sold off," he added.

The tablet uses number sets known as Pythagorean triples to make accurate  right angles, but it was made 1,000 years before the Greek philosopher Pythagoras developed the geometric principles now known as the Pythagorean theorem.

Image: University of New South Wales

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Daniel Mansfield explained his findings in this YouTube clip.

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