Ancient Babylonians Used Astronomical Geometry To Track Jupiter

Posted: Jan 29 2016, 4:19am CST | by , Updated: Jan 29 2016, 8:07pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Ancient Babylonians Used Astronomical Geometry to Track Jupiter
Mathieu Ossendrijver/ British Museum
  • Old Babylonian Tablets show that Geometry was employed for Astronomical Purposes

Old Babylonian tablets that have been unearthed show that geometry was employed way back then for astronomical purposes.

An analysis of ancient Babylonian tablets revealed a lot that was unknown up until now. Geometry was being used in those olden days to calculate the position of Jupiter in the night sky.

It had been supposed that geometry was invented 1400 years after the Babylonians, but apparently such is not the case. 14th century Europe is not when geometry was invented. The tablets are the earliest example of the use of geometry to solve time-space problems.

The age-old civilization of Babylon may have been the exact place from which knowledge of geometry was transferred to the West. Four of the ancient tablets were made in Babylon between 350 and 50 BCE.

Two breaks are recorded in them in the path of Jupiter. The planet’s axis at 60 days and 120 days has been calculated. A trapezoid’s area is also illustrated on the tablets. Its long and short edges are shown clearly too.

It had been thought that Babylonian astronomers had used arithmetic to make most of their calculations. But now it seems otherwise. Apparently they had used geometrical methods as well.

They even calculated the time in which Jupiter covered half of its 60 day journey. This was found via bisecting the trapezoid into two smaller trapezoids of equal area.

The ancient Greeks had employed geometry to configure space. But the ancient Babylonians had used geometry to decide matters having to do with velocity and time.

The discovery of the tablets have virtually rewritten our history books. In fact, the European scholars in the 14th century were eons behind the ancient Babylonians in matters of geometric calculations.

The methods used by the ancient Babylonians were indeed way ahead of their time. The trapezoid procedures were fairly advanced. They were tabulated on the tablets in the form of rows and columns.

The additions, subtractions ad multiplications were complex operations that got carried out way back then. Jupiter’s position was calculated with such precision and razor-sharp accuracy that anyone from today looking back on this happening would not be able to believe his eyes.

It is a miracle of science, that’s for sure. The concepts used and the state of mathematics that got employed were so far ahead of those primitive times that the very thought is mind-boggling to say the least.

The findings of this study were published Thursday in the journal Science.

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