Il Guardian riporta e commenta la notizia che un matematico australiano ha interpretato le incisioni presenti su una tavoletta in scrittura cuneiforme come la descrizione di terne pitagoriche usate per misurare i confini di un possedimento.
L’interesse dell’interpretazione è che il reperto risale a un migliaio di anni prima dell’epoca di Pitagora.
Much like we would today, you’ve got private individuals trying to figure out where their land boundaries are, and the surveyor comes out but instead of using a piece of GPS equipment, they use Pythagorean triples…
… Once you understand what Pythagorean triples are, your society has reached a particular level of mathematical sophistication.
Mathematicians have been arguing for most of a century about the interpretation of the tablet known as Plimpton 322, ever since the New York publisher George Plimpton bequeathed it to Columbia University in the 1930s as part of a major collection. He bought it from Edgar Banks, a diplomat, antiquities dealer and flamboyant amateur archaeologist said to have inspired the character of Indiana Jones – his feats included climbing Mount Ararat in an unsuccessful attempt to find Noah’s Ark – who had excavated it in southern Iraq in the early 20th century.
Mansfield, who has published his research with his colleague Norman Wildberger in the journal Historia Mathematica, says that while mathematicians understood for decades that the tablet demonstrates that the theorem long predated Pythagoras, there had been no agreement about the intended use of the tablet.
Maggiori dettagli sulle tavolette Plimpton 322 e Si.427 possono essere trovati in un articolo di Foundations of Science (open access). L’articolo contiene un riassunto sulla matematica mesopotamica, una descrizione della tavoletta P322 e le analisi degli autori sul contenuto di P322.
Neugebauer originally suggested that Plimpton 322 was theoretical in nature and Price later suggested it was related to practical mensuration. Paradoxically, it now seems both were correct and that Plimpton 322 was a theoretical investigation into rectangles with regular sides that was motivated, directly or indirectly, by the use of these objects in contemporary surveying.
In any case, Plimpton 322 has nothing to do with the modern study of trigonometry developed by Greek astronomers measuring the sky. Instead, this “proto-trigonometric” study of rectangles seems to have originated from the problems faced by Mesopotamian surveyors measuring the ground.