Earliest use of zero ever discovered on ancient manuscript

Earliest use of zero ever discovered on ancient manuscript

There have been many theories behind the existence of our beloved "zero", but according to recent finding and an ancient Indian mathematical text, shows that it's even farther in past than we knew. For starters, it wasn't donut-shaped: there are hundreds of zeros throughout the Bakhshali manuscript, all of which are denoted using a simple dot.

The new search results stemming from the manuscript assert an earlier reference to the symbol of zero that is considerably older than the previously known inscription on a temple in Gwalior, India dating the ninth-century.

A new carbon dating study commissioned by the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries has revealed that the zero originated in the third or fourth century AD, 500 years before originally thought. The manuscript proves zero was developed in India, the number we all use today. I've circled the dot, which stands as a placeholder zero, on the bottom line of the text. The manuscript was named after the village and has been kept in Oxford University's library since 1902. The project is an excellent example of the cutting-edge research conducted by the Bodleians Heritage Science team, together with colleagues across Oxford University, which uncovers new information about the treasures in our collections to help inform scholarship across disciplines'.

"Today we take it for granted that the concept of zero is used across the globe and is a key building block of the digital world", says Marcus du Sautoy, a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, according to the press release.

Carbon Dating Reveals the History of Zero Is Older Than Previously Thought

Firstly, this dot evolved to have a hollow centre that we see in the zero symbol today.

Scientists have discovered evidence of the symbol in the Indian Bakhshali manuscript - a mathematical text discovered in 1881.

Translations of the text, which is written in a form of Sanskrit, suggest it was a form of training manual for merchants trading across the Silk Road, and it includes practical arithmetic exercises and something approaching algebra. Earlier, it was thought that the manuscript belongs to the 9th century. "The dot was originally used as a "placeholder", meaning it was used to indicate orders of magnitude in a number system - for example, denoting 10s, 100s and 1000s", the library said. "The findings show how vibrant mathematics has been in the Indian subcontinent for centuries", he added. "But there was a moment when there wasn't this number". Other, more ancient cultures used similar placeholders, such as the Mayans, who used the symbol of a shell, and the Babylonians, who used a double wedge.

The Science Museum of London will put the manuscript on display on October 4th as part of a larger exhibition, Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation.

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