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Math China

World's Oldest Decimal Multiplication Table Discovered 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the sign-of-the-times dept.
ananyo writes "From a few fragments out of a collection of 23-century-old Chinese bamboo strips, historians have pieced together what they say is the world's oldest example of a multiplication table in base 10. Each strip is about 7 to 12 millimeters wide and half a meter long, and has a vertical line of ancient Chinese calligraphy painted on it in black ink. The bamboo pieces constitute 65 ancient texts and are thought to be among the most important artifacts from the Warring States period before the unification of China. But 21 bamboo strips contained only numbers and, on closer inspection, turned out to be a multiplication table. As in a modern multiplication table, the entries at the intersection of each row and column in the matrix provide the results of multiplying the corresponding numbers. The table can also help users to multiply any whole or half integer between 0.5 and 99.5. The researchers suspect that officials used the multiplication table to calculate surface area of land, yields of crops and the amounts of taxes owed."
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World's Oldest Decimal Multiplication Table Discovered

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  • The ancients (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @06:42PM (#45893125)

    It is fascinating that we continue to find artifacts from the ancient world that show far more sophistication that people today generally realize. This finding is one. The Antikythera Mechanism [livescience.com] is another. I recently read a fascinating article about ancient Roman military medicine [historynet.com] which was so advanced that it was not equaled in some ways until the 1900s. I have little doubt that there is much more to be found. Our ancestors could be quite astonishing in their abilities, and very human in their flaws.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @07:16PM (#45893353)

    And who's surprised it wasn't found in Africa?

    I, for one, would be really surprised if an ancient Chinese multiplication table were discovered in Africa.

  • Re:The ancients (Score:4, Insightful)

    by godrik (1287354) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @07:49PM (#45893617)

    It is fascinating that we continue to find artifacts from the ancient world that show far more sophistication that people today generally realize. This finding is one.

    While I aggree with your first sentence. The second one is puzzling to me. I find it natural that some people understood the concept of multiplication at that time. It is not very old, it is essentially 200BC. There was plenty of commerce, armies and large government at that time which uses lots of multiplications. Pythagoras' work is about 300 years older than that and is much more complex than multiplications.

    It is nice to have the artifact, but it is not very surprising IMHO.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:17PM (#45893779)

    Well, the researchers probably know better than you, bob_super.

    Not likely. Most of the "science" here is just doing things like surveying and dating objects.
    Figuring out what things were used for is usually a matter of Wild Speculation, heavily influenced by the "researchers'" own personal prejudices, which is then taken as Truth until someone finds some actual evidence. Usually the evidence proves the speculation was complete bullshit.

    Yes, a multiplication table COULD be used for figuring crop yield. It could also be used for figuring logistics for an army. Or calculating how many sex slaves are needed for an upcoming party. Real science is far less concerned about what it COULD be used for an more interested in what it actually WAS used for. In this case, they have no idea what use DID occur, so they're speculating with nothing to back it up.

    Thus, bob_super's opinion is likely to be just as close to the truth as the "researcher"'s opinion.

  • Re:The ancients (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nutria (679911) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @09:17PM (#45894087)

    And there's a damn good reason why "Doctors" were using leeches for damn near everything during the Age of the "Enlightenment"

    Sure: because Galen said so [wikipedia.org].

    It's because the barbarian followers of Jesus were morons without a fucking clue and we lost that knowledge and much more.

    Or... it was because Augustine of Hippo crawled so far up Aristotle's ass (men have more teeth than women and so men obviously are superior) that the Church only considered a need to think about maybe crawling out 1900 years later.

    Thank goodness for those Evil Crusaders, though, looting Arab libraries and bringing Greek, Roman & Islamic ideas back to Europe.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @11:05PM (#45894651)

    Since you can't spell "sci fi" (or scifi, if you like) your opinion is hereby annulled.

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