The oldest specimen of applied geometry was discovered in a 3,700-year-old Babylonian clay tablet
It is considered important that the "surveyor" uses the so-called "Pythagorean triples" to create precise right angles. "The discovery and analysis of the plate have important implications for the history of mathematics. "For example, the plaque was created more than a thousand years before Pythagoras was born," Mansfield said.
A mathematician says he has uncovered the origins of applied geometry and land surveying after the rediscovery of a 3,700-year-old clay tablet.
The Bronze Age relic – know as Si427 – was first discovered in late 19th century Iraq and lay hidden in plain sight in an Istanbul museum for decades.
But detective work by a lecturer from the University of New South Wales in Australia has revealed the artefact's true purpose: to outline precise boundaries and avoid disputes among wealthy landowners in ancient Babylonia.
“Si427 dates from the Old Babylonian [OB] period – 1,900 to 1,600 BC,” says lead researcher Dr Daniel Mansfield from UNSW’s School of Mathematics and Statistics in a study released in the Foundations of Science journal.
“It’s the only known example of a cadastral document from the OB period, which is a plan used by surveyors to define land boundaries. In this case, it tells us legal and geometric details about a field that’s split after some of it was sold off.
“This is from a period where land is starting to become private – people started thinking about land in terms of ‘my land and your land’, wanting to establish a proper boundary to have positive neighbourly relationships. And this is what this tablet immediately says. It's a field being split, and new boundaries are made.”
Dr Mansfield first learnt about the Si427 tablet after reading it had been dig up during the Sippar expedition of 1894, in what is Baghdad province today.
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