Ancient clay tablet reveals that Babylonians were using Pythagoras's math theories long before Pythagoras was born

Anita Durairaj
SI.427 tabletPhoto byDaniel. Mansfield; CC-BY-SA-4.0

An ancient clay tablet labeled Si.427 is the earliest known example of applied geometry.

The tablet was first discovered in 1894 in central Iraq. However, it was years later before archaeologists deduced the meaning of the tablet and what it was used for.

The tablet was dated back 3,700 years ago to the ancient Babylonians specifically from the period 1900 BCE - 1600 BCE. It was constructed out of clay and had stylus writing on the top.

The tablet served as a land survey map that was used to define property boundaries. It was most likely created by a Babylonian land surveyor.

On the front of the tablet, a diagram of a field can be seen. The field is split with boundaries and demarcated. The back of the tablet is written in cuneiform and describes the diagram on the front.

Archaeologists were really surprised at the accuracy of the drawing of the boundaries. The Babylonian surveyor had been very precise. He used Pythagorean maths to make the boundaries into perpendicular lines of a right-angled triangle so it would be easy to measure.

By applying the Pythagoras theorem, the unknown sides of a triangle can be measured. The theorem is credited to Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician, and philosopher.

However, the Babylonians had never heard of Pythagoras. After all, he was born more than a thousand years after the tablet was created.

Archaeologists have come to the conclusion that the Babylonians were mathematically very advanced and had a real understanding of applied geometry long before Pythagoras.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.


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