Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The hidden treasures of Babylonian clay tablets

We all have heard of the huge amount of clay tablets that were found over the centuries in the Near East and more specifically in the area of ancient Babylon. While a great number of them are still resting in the vaults of museums all over the world and an unspecified number is still waiting to be excavated from known and unknown archaeological sites, we do have an impressive collection at hand to work with. Unfortunately, scholars capable of reading and/or deciphering the cuneiform tablets are limited meaning that significant texts from these tablets only surface occasionally, sometimes with very revealing results.

At present, we have a 3,700 years-old tablet from the collection of Columbia University proving that dear old Pythagoras was not the true inventor of his famous theorem. Pythagoras was born in Samos, probably around 570 BC and lived till the old age of 75 or even 80 years. His theorem has become common knowledge over the centuries and we may never have heard of this mathematician, scientist and philosopher otherwise.

The tablet mentioned above, however, is proof that Pythagoras’ theorem existed already some 1,000 years earlier. Also, the same tablet contains a series of trigonometry tables which according to scientists are more accurate than our modern counterparties. Trigonometry as such is said to be invented by Hipparchus of Nicaea, an astronomer, geographer and mathematician who lived probably from 190 till 120 BC. The abovementioned cuneiform, however, shows that the Babylonians were totally familiar with trigonometry more than one thousand years earlier. Besides, this tablet reveals a greater accuracy with clear advantages when compared to our modern trigonometry.

A team from the University of New South Wales in Sydney concluded after an in-depth study that this tablet is the world’s oldest and the only completely accurate trigonometric table. This little but important tool could effectively be used in surveying fields as well as in the building process of constructions like temples, palaces and pyramids. It seems that even in our modern world, the tablet could have practical applications in computer graphics and education as well.

What eluded researchers till now was the true purpose of this tablet but today they established that the Babylonians used a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios instead of angles and circles. Using the number 60 instead of our 10 (decimal) as base for their calculations enabled the Babylonians to reach more accurate fractions and in the present case the system proves to be an absolute genius.

Nothing new under the sun, one could say. I am often itching to see more of these cuneiform tablets to be deciphered although they have already revealed some key moments in history (see also: The Cyrus cylinder and ancient Persia: a new beginning; Alexander the Great and the Magi; The troops of the King deserted him; and Two key Afterthoughts on Gaugamela).

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