ARCHAEOLOGY Fall 2017

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1. PARIS.- A passenger plane-sized "void" has been discovered in the middle of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, where it has lain secret and untouched for 4,500 years, scientists revealed on Thursday. The space is one of four cavities, along with the king and queen's chambers and "Grand Gallery", now known to exist inside the giant monument constructed under pharaoh Khufu of ancient Egypt. "It is big," said co-discoverer Mehdi Tayoubi of the ScanPyramids project, which has been exploring Khufu's pyramid since October 2015 with non-invasive technology using subatomic particle scans. "It's the size of a 200-seater airplane, in the heart of the pyramid," Tayoubi told AFP of the discovery, published in science journal Nature. Towering over the Giza complex on Cairo's outskirts alongside smaller pyramids for kings Menkaure and Khafre and the Great Sphinx, the Khufu's pyramid is the oldest and only surviving construction among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and one of the largest buildings ever ere ... More http://artdaily.com/news/99973/Scientists-discover-a-mysterious--plane-sized--void--in-Great-Pyramid-in-Egypt#.WgdYgohry70

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2. SAUDI ARABIA  SYDNEY (AFP).- Nearly 400 mysterious ancient stone structures have been identified in the Saudi Arabian desert by an Australian researcher using Google Earth.
David Kennedy, whose team has spent decades recording thousands of archaeological sites in the Middle East, said the man-made edifices, known as "gates", are thought to have been constructed between 2,000 to 9,000 years ago.
But their purpose and function are a mystery.
"You can't see them in any intelligible way at the ground level but once you get up a few hundred feet, or with a satellite even higher, they stand out beautifully," the University of Western Australia academic Wednesday said in a statement.
Kennedy said he was baffled when he first saw the remote and inhospitable site, in the lava fields of an ancient volcano, on satellite images, despite some 40 years working in the region.
"I refer to them as Gates because when you view them from above they look like a simple field gate lying flat, two upright posts on the sides, connected by one or more long bars," he said.
"They don't look like structures where people would have lived nor do they look like animal traps or for disposing of dead bodies. It's a mystery as to what their purpose would have been."
His findings are described in a paper published next month in the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy.
He said not much was known about the people who built them, but they were believed to be ancestors of the modern-day Bedouin.
Their discovery came about by chance after a Saudi doctor who was interested in the area's history contacted him, having heard about his work in Jordan.
"He said 'I'm interested in the heritage of my country, I've spotted on Google Earth that there are some rather strange structures in the lava fields'," Kennedy told broadcaster ABC.
"He sent the coordinates of them to me and I had a look and I was bowled over by them."
Kennedy, a founding director of the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa project, specialises in aerial archaeology.
Since 1997, he and his team have photographed tens of thousands of stone-built structures, mostly in Jordan, ranging from giant circles to animal traps and funerary monuments.
http://artdaily.com/news/99818/Mystery-ancient-stone-structures-found-in-Saudi-desert#.WgiElohry70

 

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3. TIBERIAS (AFP).- Researchers may have found the home town of Peter and two other apostles of Jesus near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, an archaeologist said Monday.
Israeli and American archaeologists have likely uncovered the lost Roman city of Julias near the banks of the lake, also known as Lake Tiberias, Mordechai Aviam of Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archeaology said.
First century Roman historian Flavius Josephus wrote that Julias was built around 30 AD on the ruins of Bethsaid, a fishing village where Peter was born according to the Gospel of John.
Christians recognise Saint Peter, originally a fisherman, as one of the first followers of Jesus and the leader of the early Church following the ascension.
The Catholic church also venerates him as its first pope.
Two other apostles -- Philip and Peter's brother Andrew -- are also believed to have been born or lived in Bethsaida.
Archaeologists have long sought to locate Julias, focusing their search on three different sites.
Aviam told AFP that one of the sites, the only one so far excavated, was believed to be the correct site.
"We have uncovered fragments of pottery, coins, and the remains of a public bath, which tends to prove that it was not a small village, but a town which may correspond to Julias," he said.
"Based on these findings, we believe this site is likely to be located at the site of Bethsaida."
The site, not far from the Jordan River, is a few hundred meters from Lake Tiberias.
Water levels would have been far higher during the first century.
Work is also being carried out on another site a few kilometres away, Aviam added.
He said he hoped further excavations would reveal evidence from pre-Roman times, including ancient Jewish remains, which could help verify whether the site is Bethsaida.
The site will not immediately be opened to the public, he said.
http://artdaily.com/news/98079/Archaeologists-find-birthplace-of-Apostle-Peter-near-the-Sea-of-Galilee-in-Israel-#.WdZ6i0qGMnZ

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5. OXFORD.- The origin of the symbol zero has long been one of the world’s greatest mathematical mysteries. Today, new carbon dating research commissioned by the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries into the ancient Indian Bakhshali manuscript, held at the Bodleian, has revealed it to be hundreds of years older than initially thought, making it the world’s oldest recorded origin of the zero symbol that we use today.
The surprising results of the first ever radiocarbon dating conducted on the Bakhshali manuscript, a seminal mathematical text which contains hundreds of zeroes, reveal that it dates from as early as the 3rd or 4th century – approximately five centuries older than scholars previously believed. This means that the manuscript in fact predates a 9th century inscription of zero on the wall of a temple in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, which was previously considered to be the oldest recorded example of a zero used as a placeholder in India. The findings are highly significant for the study of the early history of mathematics.
The zero symbol that we use today evolved from a dot that was used in ancient India and can be seen throughout the Bakhshali manuscript. 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.
While the use of zero as a placeholder was seen in several different ancient cultures, such as among the ancient Mayans and Babylonians, the symbol in the Bakhshali manuscript is particularly significant for two reasons. Firstly, it is this dot that evolved to have a hollow centre and became the symbol that we use as zero today. Secondly, it was only in India that this zero developed into a number in its own right, hence creating the concept and the number zero that we understand today – this happened in 628 AD, just a few centuries after the Bakhshali manuscript was produced, when the Indian astronomer and mathematician Brahmagupta wrote a text called Brahmasphutasiddhanta, which is the first document to discuss zero as a number.
Although the Bakhshali manuscript is widely acknowledged as the oldest Indian mathematical text, the exact age of the manuscript has long been the subject of academic debate. The most authoritative academic study on the manuscript, conducted by Japanese scholar Dr Hayashi Takao, asserted that it probably dated from between the 8th and the 12th century, based on factors such as the style of writing and the literary and mathematical content. The new carbon dating reveals that the reason why it was previously so difficult for scholars to pinpoint the Bakhshali manuscript’s date is because the manuscript, which consists of 70 fragile leaves of birch bark, is in fact composed of material from at least three different periods.
Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, said: ‘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. But the creation of zero as a number in its own right, which evolved from the placeholder dot symbol found in the Bakhshali manuscript, was one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of mathematics.
‘We now know that it was as early as the 3rd century that mathematicians in India planted the seed of the idea that would later become so fundamental to the modern world. The findings show how vibrant mathematics have been in the Indian sub-continent for centuries.’
Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, said: ‘Determining the date of the Bakhshali manuscript is of vital importance to the history of mathematics and the study of early South Asian culture and these surprising research results testify to the subcontinent’s rich and longstanding scientific tradition. The project is an excellent example of the cutting-edge research conducted by the Bodleian’s 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.’
The Bakhshali manuscript was found in 1881, buried in a field in a village called Bakhshali, near Peshawar, in what is now a region of Pakistan. It was found by a local farmer and was acquired by the Indologist AFR Hoernle, who presented it to the Bodleian Library in 1902, where it has been kept since.
An academic paper about the results, conducted at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, is currently being prepared for publication. A short video about the research results can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV_gXGTuWxY&feature=youtu.be
A folio from the Bakhshali manuscript will go on public display at the Science Museum in London as a centrepiece of the major exhibition Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation, opening 4 October 2017. The exhibition will celebrate India’s central role in the history of science and technology by exploring its influential contributions to subjects as diverse as space exploration, mathematics, communication and engineering.
http://artdaily.com/news/98788/Carbon-dating-finds-manuscript-contains-oldest-recorded-origins-of-the-symbol--zero-#.Wd-vOkqGMnY

6.SYDNEY.- UNSW Sydney scientists have discovered the purpose of a famous 3700-year-old Babylonian clay tablet, revealing it is the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, possibly used by ancient mathematical scribes to calculate how to construct palaces and temples and build canals.
The new research shows the Babylonians, not the Greeks, were the first to study trigonometry – the study of triangles – and reveals an ancient mathematical sophistication that had been hidden until now.
Known as Plimpton 322, the small tablet was discovered in the early 1900s in what is now southern Iraq by archaeologist, academic, diplomat and antiquities dealer Edgar Banks, the person on whom the fictional character Indiana Jones was based.
It has four columns and 15 rows of numbers written on it in the cuneiform script of the time using a base 60, or sexagesimal, system.
“Plimpton 322 has puzzled mathematicians for more than 70 years, since it was realised it contains a special pattern of numbers called Pythagorean triples,” says Dr Daniel Mansfield of the School of Mathematics and Statistics in the UNSW Faculty of Science.
“The huge mystery, until now, was its purpose – why the ancient scribes carried out the complex task of generating and sorting the numbers on the tablet.
“Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles. It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius.
“The tablet not only contains the world’s oldest trigonometric table; it is also the only completely accurate trigonometric table, because of the very different Babylonian approach to arithmetic and geometry."
The new study by Dr Mansfield and UNSW Associate Professor Norman Wildberger is published in Historia Mathematica, the official journal of the International Commission on the History of Mathematics.
A trigonometric table allows you to use one known ratio of the sides of a right-angle triangle to determine the other two unknown ratios.
The Greek astronomer Hipparchus, who lived about 120 years BC, has long been regarded as the father of trigonometry, with his “table of chords” on a circle considered the oldest trigonometric table.
“Plimpton 322 predates Hipparchus by more than 1,000 years,” says Dr Wildberger. “It opens up new possibilities not just for modern mathematics research, but also for mathematics education. With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trigonometry that has clear advantages over our own.
“A treasure-trove of Babylonian tablets exists, but only a fraction of them have been studied yet. The mathematical world is only waking up to the fact that this ancient but very sophisticated mathematical culture has much to teach us.”
Dr Mansfield read about Plimpton 322 by chance when preparing material for first-year mathematics students at UNSW. He and Dr Wildberger decided to study Babylonian mathematics and examine the different historical interpretations of the tablet’s meaning after realizing that it had parallels with the rational trigonometry of Dr Wildberger’s book Divine Proportions: Rational Trigonometry to Universal Geometry.
The 15 rows on the tablet describe a sequence of 15 right-angle triangles, which are steadily decreasing in inclination.
The left-hand edge of the tablet is broken and the UNSW researchers build on previous research to present new mathematical evidence that there were originally six columns and that the tablet was meant to be completed with 38 rows.
They also demonstrate how the ancient scribes, who used a base 60 numerical arithmetic similar to our time clock, rather than the base 10 number system we use, could have generated the numbers on the tablet using their mathematical techniques.
The UNSW Science research provides an alternative to the widely accepted view that the tablet was a teacher’s aid for checking students’ solutions of quadratic problems.
“Plimpton 322 was a powerful tool that could have been used for surveying fields or making architectural calculations to build palaces, temples or step pyramids,” says Dr Mansfield.
The tablet, which is thought to have come from the ancient Sumerian city of Larsa, has been dated to between 1822 and 1762 BC. It is now in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University in New York.
A Pythagorean triple consists of three, positive whole numbers a, b and c such that a2 + b2 = c2. The integers 3, 4 and 5 are a well-known example of a Pythagorean triple, but the values on Plimpton 322 are often considerably larger with, for example, the first row referencing the triple 119, 120 and 169.
The name is derived from Pythagoras’ theorem of right-angle triangles which states that the square of the hypotenuse (the diagonal side opposite the right angle) is the sum of the squares of the other two sides.
http://artdaily.com/news/98458/Mathematical-mystery-of-famous-3700-year-old-Babylonian-clay-tablet-solved#.WfiWFGJSwnY

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