The Bakhshali manuscript is an ancient mathematical manuscript written on more than 70 leaves of birch bark, found in 1881 near Peshawar
At the time when the world was counting only from one to nine, India came up with zero. However, the time which was estimated to be the birth date of zero just got changed to 500 years back in time.
Scientists at Oxford University carbon dated the Bakshali manuscript and found that “it dates from between the second and fourth century”. This is well before the earlier estimates which accepted the origin of zero to be during ninth century.
The Bakhshali manuscript is an ancient mathematical manuscript written on more than 70 leaves of birch bark, found in 1881 near Peshawar. It is notable for having a dot representing zero in it. The manuscript is housed at Oxford since 1902.
Watch | A Big Zero: Research uncovers the date of the Bakhshali manuscript
The finding predates the oldest known example of a zero in India seen at a Gwalior temple. The dot littered across the script which was used by merchants in old times meant as a placeholder. In simple terms, it signified orders of magnitude in a number system such as 10s and 100s - very much the way we use it today.This placeholder, however, is part of many cultures — ancient Mayans and Babylonian. However, two reasons make it different. According to the Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, Marcus du Sautoy, it is only in India where it evolved into a number in its own right. And secondly, the dot in Bakhshali and the zero we use today are very similar.
“The Bakhshali manuscript, therefore, contains the oldest recorded example of the symbol that we use for zero today. This symbol would then grow into something that exists in its own right to capture the concept of nothing,” said a statement from Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.
A leaf from the Bakhshali Manuscript, showing off Indian mathematical genius. A zero symbol has been highlighted in the second image. pic.twitter.com/65iZpEVkld
— Bodleian Libraries (@bodleianlibs) September 14, 2017