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Math China

World's Oldest Decimal Multiplication Table Discovered 86

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @07:49PM (#45893169)

    300BC is anything but a pre-historic era. Do the owners of Slashdot REALLY think you are that thick? Do any of you think that the great achievements of that period could occur WITHOUT the ability to do simple maths, like multiplying numbers?

    Strict base number counting systems are arbitrary. Knowledge of one is knowledge of all of them, yet only a few weeks ago we had the humiliatingly cretinous suggestion that BINARY could be invented AFTER the concept of base number systems was understood. Even betas should be above the propaganda ploy that goes "you are geniuses, but your ancestors were know-nothing thickos". Every salesperson knows that the most idiotic 'marks' are those that fall for simple flattery.

    What is true, when you go back far enough, is that practical maths skills would frequently have been treasured as 'industrial secrets' by collectives or guilds or the like- and there was little widespread desire to universally educate the 'common man'. This did NOT mean things were not known, simply that some knowledge remained well known only amongst certainly tightly knit groups of people. It was, recall, the age of the printing press that changed this situation. Before the printing press, replication of written material was painful and costly.

    Google "Antikythera mechanism". If this device had not been discovered, and I said here the people of 100BC had the ability to make such a computer, the usual vile shills would immediately reply, calling me a "tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist". The scum who tell you betas to be 'amazed' at the idea of Humans multiplying two numbers together want you to be this dumb and uninformed about levels of Human achievement in the past.

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

    by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:14PM (#45893335)

    If you happen into a library that carries Military History magazine you may want to read the Roman medicine article, it is fascinating. Just one tidbit:

    The Best Medicine []

    On average the Roman medical corps saved the lives of 70 percent of the wounded that reached the field hospital, a survival rate not equaled until the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War

  • Re:The ancients (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @09:18PM (#45893785)

    The Incas (and other Mesoamerican peoples) were doing BRAIN SURGERY before the arrival of the Spanish barbarians. Their style of warfare was to incapacitate the enemy soldiers, then heal them, because what was the purpose of taking over territory if there was no one left to work the land? The weaponry was mostly clubs and slings of various types, which created a lot of head injuries and broken bones that were then healed so that the ex-soldiers could go back to the fields. They really didn't understand the Spanish when they came and killed, and killed, and killed everything that moved. They didn't have the historical background of the glorious Age of Chivalry, where if a European lordling had designs on a neighbors territory he sent his mercenaries to kill all the neighbors peasants, so that there was no one to take in the harvest and the neighbor's mercenaries would defect when he couldn't pay them. In contrast most of the participants of an Incan battle survived, a bit worse for wear but alive and able to work.

  • by BeanBagKing ( 1151733 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @09:21PM (#45893811)
    I mean, Babylonians were doing this (granted in a different base) some 1,500 to 2,000 years prior. That's a long time. If nobody, between then and 600(ish) BC thought of doing the same thing, I would lose hope in the creativity of humans. So this really doesn't surprise me, it's not like they were idiots back then.
  • by Forty Two Tenfold ( 1134125 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @09:38PM (#45893891)
    Well, those primitive African tribes went far beyond that. They invented fractals. []
  • Characters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @10:04PM (#45894009)
    What is impressive is how the characters hardly evolved since that time. The picture is not easy to read, but it seems that only 7 and 9 are different from modern characters.
  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @10:19PM (#45894103)

    I tend to agree. Just as likely a schooling aid as something actually used day to day.

    Someone wrote a sifi short story about the anthropologists far in the future speculating about the religious cult of the rings, and the tossing of rings as a penance for personal transgressions. He speculated that people wore the rings as disposable penance, to be cast at the scene after self inflicting a minor cut of penitence. Each ring seemed sized just right to fit over a finger, and had a semi sharp spoon shaped attachment for self flagellation.

    Nothing else could explain the wide scattering of these things all over the world.

    They were called by the name of the Deity to which they were related: Pop Tops. The sect died out after a while.

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Wednesday January 08, 2014 @12:34AM (#45894789) Journal

    Chinese don't like war too much. They are not a warring tribe.

    However, they love money.

    Ask any Chinese, and I mean, any Chinese and you will find each and every single one of them love money.

    How I know ? I am a Chinese.

    The multiplication table wasn't the only Chinese invention. The ancient Chinese also invented the Abacus ( [] ) because they needed something to count their money.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal