We often associate modern world inventions with modern times, even though some civilizations had already developed highly advanced systems before their demise. It would seem like a certain civilization went through this, as the Babylonians tracked Jupiter with complex geometrical equations.
- Babylonians used clay tablets to perform complex geometric calculations as long ago as 350 to 50 B.C.E.
- The next future encounter of such calculus was in 1350s England
- A trapezoid was used to figure out the speed of Jupiter’s path across the sky
- This was very relevant to the Babylonians, as Jupiter was associated with their main god – Marduk
- Priests were most likely also astronomers and were performing the calculations
- The tablets were all written in the Babylonians’ ancient cuneiform alphabet
Of course, such modern day applications of math like calculus were invented a while back, and researchers knew that.
Only they assumed that the origins of calculus dated back to 14th century Europe, but it turns out that the ancient Babylonians used the extremely complex integral calculus to figure out the trajectory and speed of Jupiter.
Since Jupiter was associated with the Babylonians’ supreme god Marduk, it was the priests’ responsibility to track the planet as it moved through the sky, as well as to interpret what Jupiter’s position meant in regards to applications.
Astrology, the state of that year’s crop, and even the level of the river Euphrates were all predictions made by the Babylonian priests with the use of advanced mathematical algorithms.
The math wizzes didn’t even bother to draw the geometric symbol – the trapezoid – to which they were referring; they only mentioned it in writing, at the same calculating the area under it, as well as the curve and the speed of Jupiter’s movement across the sky.
They also understood that the planet was moving at a constant speed, even if from Earth it seemed like it was in fact slowing down gradually.
Researchers are one again impressed with the ingenuity and intelligence shown by this ancient culture, as they have also been known for several other techniques and processes far beyond their time.
Despite many factors of their culture being lost with their cuneiform language, we still kept a few remnants to this day – the division of the Sun’s path on the sky after zodiac signs, as well as the base-six number system used to keep track of time.
Image source: Wikimedia