Sophisticated geometry – the branch of mathematics that deals with shapes – was being used at least 1,400 years earlier than previously thought, a study suggests.
Research shows that the Ancient Babylonians were using geometrical calculations to track Jupiter across thght se niky.
Previously, the origins of this technique had been traced to the 14th Century.
The new study is published the Science.
Its author, Prof Mathieu Ossendrijver, from the Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany, said: “I wasn’t expecting this. It is completely fundamental to physics, and all branches of science use this method.”
It had been thought that complex geometry was first used by scholars in Oxford and Paris in Medieval times.
They used curves to trace the position and velocity of moving objects.
But now scientists believe the Babylonians developed this technique around 350 BC.
Prof Ossendrijver examined five Babylonian tablets that were excavated in the 19th Century, and which are now held in the British Museum’s archives.
The script reveals that they were using four-sided shapes, called trapezoids, to calculate when Jupiter would appear in the night sky, and also the speed and distance that it travelled.