Oct 2, 2023

Pythagorean Theorem Found On Clay Tablet 1,000 Years Older Than Pythagoras

Posted by in categories: education, information science, mathematics

Study math for long enough and you will likely have cursed Pythagoras’s name, or said “praise be to Pythagoras” if you’re a bit of a fan of triangles.

But while Pythagoras was an important historical figure in the development of mathematics, he did not figure out the equation most associated with him (a2 + b2 = c2). In fact, there is an ancient Babylonian tablet (by the catchy name of IM 67118) which uses the Pythagorean theorem to solve the length of a diagonal inside a rectangle. The tablet, likely used for teaching, dates from 1770 BCE – centuries before Pythagoras was born in around 570 BCE.

Another tablet from around 1800–1600 BCE has a square with labeled triangles inside. Translating the markings from base 60 – the counting system used by ancient Babylonians – showed that these ancient mathematicians were aware of the Pythagorean theorem (not called that, of course) as well as other advanced mathematical concepts.

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