A historian has just decoded a mysterious trapezoid from ancient Babylonian astronomical tablets. After analysis of the tablet, it has been concluded that Babylonian astronomers had calculated the movements of Jupiter using an ancient form of geometric calculus. Keep in mind that this is approximately 1500 years before we thought this type of math was invented by the Europeans.
The tablet was translated by astroarcheologist Matthieu Ossendrijver of Humbolt University in Berlin.
As Science Alert points out:
“This means that these ancient Mesopotamian astronomers had not only figured out how to predict Jupiter’s paths more than 1,000 years before the first telescopes existed, but they were using mathematical techniques that would form the foundations of modern calculus as we now know it.”
This is a big discovery, the tablet is one out of hundreds that were excavated during the 19th century. Anthropologists and archaeologists have been working for more than one hundred years trying to decode all of them. They are from around 100 or 200 BC.
The tablet shows that ancient astronomers used time to calculate the speed and distance of a celestial object. It turns out that the Babylonians were tracing the trajectory of Jupiter in a specific amount of time. They did this by measuring its speed every single day, and by using a very advanced geometric ‘shortcut’ that allowed them to measure the planet’s speed on the first and 60th day of the measurements, which gave them the distance it travelled.
“This would open up new ways of computing motion they could have applied to other planets, other parts of Jupiter’s motion..We don’t have examples of that…We only have these four tablets and they all deal with Jupiter – and they all deal with the same segment of 60 days. That’s quite strange.” (source)
By calculating the area inside of the trapezoid, ancient astronomers could find out where the planet would be in the sky. This is the same link between velocity and displacement taught in introductory calculus classes.
New Scientist points out that Scholars at Oxford’s Merton College and in Paris during the 14th century are “typically credited with the same insight about velocity and displacement. They even connected it to the trapezoid shape. These ideas were the antecedents of the calculus developed by Newton and Leibniz – but the Babylonians had them far earlier.”
It’s amazing how little we actually know about the ancient civilizations that once roamed our planet. From what we know so far, they were extremely advanced, possibly even more advanced than modern day humans. What’s even more interesting is that many of these ancient cultures speak of ‘gods’ that came from the cosmos and shared this type of information. There is even evidence of highly sophisticated technology, but that’s a topic for another article.
My people tell of Star People who came to us many generations ago. The Star people brought spiritual teachings and stories and maps of the cosmos and they offered these freely. They were kind, loving, and set a great example. When they left us, my people say there was a loneliness like no other.” – Richard Wagamese, Ojibway Author (source)
It’s always interesting to ponder the knowledge of ancient civilizations, and findings like this are always discarding our previous assumptions of history.