Ancient Babylonians Tracked Jupiter With Advanced Math, GeometryBy Russell Westerholm
Ancient clay tablets not only reveal how the Babylonians tracked planets before the invention of the telescope, but how they developed the math to do it.
According to The Washington Post, the tablets prove the ancient Babylonians were tracking Jupiter, which they called "The White Star." The mathematical equation they used to accomplish this was so highly advanced it became a precursor to calculus more than a thousand years later.
Matthieu Ossendrijver, an astroarchaeologist at Humboldt University in Berlin, published his findings in the journal Science.
"This shows just how highly developed this ancient culture was," he told Gizmodo. "I don't think anybody expected something like this would be discovered in a Babylonian text."
In tiny marks scratched into the clay, most of which were first discovered in the 19th century, the ancient Babylonians recorded Jupiter's appearance on the horizon. To represent this, they were using geometric concepts more complex than anything else in the world at the time.
"It's not an actual trapezoid that describes the shape of a field, or some configuration of the planets in space," Ossendrijver told Live Science. "It's a configuration in a mathematical space. It's a highly abstract application.
"Anyone who has studied physics or a little bit of math is familiar with making graphs - plotting one quantity against time - but actually this had to be invented once."