Monthly Archives: May 2017
Source: Teaching Ancient Civilisations
This is a re-blog from Luciana Cavallaro..Luciana takes you through all periods of ancient times. A must read, especially for teachers whose pupils will be enthralled.
Some time ago i made a comment on this very subject. I am not sure whether it was my answer to a newspaper report or on twitter. My comment went something like the following. Is there any other material which could be used that looked and felt like ivory, for artists to create their carved work as they do on real ivory, which in turn would hopefully stop all this illegal poaching and the suffering of these poor elephants.
Now someone is at last working on this very same subject.
The ancient Babylonians could predict the passage of Jupiter through the night sky, which they recorded on cuneiform tablets – more than 14 centuries before such techniques were seen in Europe.
The discovery was made by Mathieu Ossendrijver of Humboldt University in Berlin , who studied five cuneiform tablets that date back to between 350 and 50 BC, recovered during 19th century excavations near the main temple Esagila in Babylon, and now held by the British Museum in London.
The tablets record calculations for the time and velocity of the planet’s journey over 60 days. Four describe an area covered over a certain period of time as a trapezoid, but the figures could not be connected to a named planet. However, when Ossendrijver examined the fifth, previously unstudied, tablet he noticed it specifically mentions Jupiter and that the figures matched those on the other four tablets.
Though contemporary, Greeks and Egyptians had mastered astronomy, this particular geometrical method is new, as Ossendrijver explained. The motion of a planet from day to day is generally computed from its velocity ( which is the distance covered per day) but, uniquely on these tablets, the total distance covered in a certain period of time(60 days) is computed from the area under the trapezoid figure obtained by drawing velocity against time.
This approach will appear strikingly familiar to students of physics and mathematics today, as it anticipates modern integral calculus that can be traced to a group of 14th century scholars at Oxford( who called it the( Mertonian mean speed theorem ), and the French bishop scholastic philosopher Nicholas Oresme, who came up with a similar method.
Ossendrijver tells us that it is quite possible that this method was also used for other planets. However, Jupiter was of special significance in the city of Babylon, it was the astral manifestation of Marduk ( Bel ), the Babylonian supreme god, and the astronomers in Babylon who wrote these tablets were most likely employed by the temple.
Babylonian Cuneiform Tablet.
Left – Cuneiform tablet with calculation’s that involved a trapezoid Right – The distance travelled by Jupiter after 60 days 10 45′, is
computed as the area of the trapezoid. The trapezoid is then
divided into two smaller ones in order to find the time (tc) in which
Jupiter covers half the distance.
Courtesy: The British Museum London.