3,700-Year-Old Babylonian Stone Tablet Gets Translated, Changes History About Advanced Math

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Historians once credited the Greeks with the study of complex geometric principles.

But a University of New South Wales professor Dr. Daniel Mansfield recently made a new history-changing discovery: Babylonians were doing advanced math 1,500 years before the Greeks were!

Mansfield and his team found this out after cracking a code on an old Babylonian clay tablet.

This tablet turned out to be a giant trigonometry puzzle. Dr. Mansfield was clearly happy to have found this out.

This is some of what he had to say:

“The huge mystery, until now, was its purpose – why the ancient scribes carried out the complex task of generating and sorting the numbers on the tablet. Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles. It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius.

The tablet not only contains the world’s oldest trigonometric table; it is also the only completely accurate trigonometric table, because of the very different Babylonian approach to arithmetic and geometry. This means it has great relevance for our modern world. Babylonian mathematics may have been out of fashion for more than 3,000 years, but it has possible practical applications in surveying, computer graphics and education. This is a rare example of the ancient world teaching us something new.”

Prior to this revelation, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus was considered the father of trigonometry. To this, Dr. Mansfield’s colleague, Norman Widberger, said:

“Plimpton 322 predates Hipparchus by more than 1,000 years. It opens up new possibilities not just for modern mathematics research, but also for mathematics education. With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trigonometry that has clear advantages over our own.

A treasure trove of Babylonian tablets exists, but only a fraction of them have been studied yet. The mathematical world is only waking up to the fact that this ancient but very sophisticated mathematical culture has much to teach us.”

The accolades from Twitter came pouring in…


Because people just aren’t able to figure this thing out…

Not at all…

And that has people amazed…

That doesn’t mean we should discredit the contributions of the ancient Greeks. They still helped us.

What did you think of this new discovery? The comments section is ready for your thoughts on our newly reshaped history!