For years, researchers have been curious about a mysterious 1500-year-old trapezoidal tablet dating back to the ancient Babylonian civilization. But now, a historian has successfully decoded the tablet and uncovered that it is astronomical in nature.
Babylonian astronomers calculated the movements of Jupiter using what amounts to an ancient geometric calculus.
The tablets were translated by Matthieu Ossendrijver, an astroacheologist from Humbolt University in Berlin, Germany. It essentially demonstrates that the ancient Babylonians had very advanced mathematical techniques, more so than we originally thought. They used techniques that would form the foundation of modern calculus.
The tablet demonstrates how Babylonian astronomers used time to calculate the speed and distance of Jupiter. They did so by measuring its speed every day. This allowed for new ways of computing motion that they were then able to apply to other planets.
Typically, scholars from the 14th century are credited with discoveries relating to velocity and displacement, but this understanding existed as early as 29 centuries prior. What strikes me as most incredible about this discovery is that we often consider ourselves in the modern world the most scientifically advanced and curious, assuming that ancient civilizations were oblivious to their surroundings. That’s definitely not the case.
The truth is, ancient people were just as curious about their surroundings as we are, and they were in no way “stupid” people. Through the ages, lots of information was lost for one reason or another. It’s hard to know just how advanced we’d be right now had we not lost all of that information.