Babylonians ‘first to use geometry’

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Mathieu Ossendrijver

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Five Babylonian tablets revealed that these ancient people were using sophisticated geometry

Sophisticated geometry – the branch of mathematics that deals with shapes – was being used at least 1,400 years earlier than previously thought, a study suggests.

Research shows that the Ancient Babylonians were using geometrical calculations to track Jupiter across the night sky.

Previously, the origins of this technique had been traced to the 14th Century.

The new study is published in Science.

Its author, Prof Mathieu Ossendrijver, from the Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany, said: “I wasn’t expecting this. It is completely fundamental to physics, and all branches of science use this method.”

Stargazers

The Ancient Babylonians once lived in what is now Iraq and Syria. The civilisation emerged in about 1,800 BC.

Clay tablets engraved with their Cuneiform writing system have already shown these people were advanced in astronomy.

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