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Historians Challenge “Earliest Zero” Claim

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bakhshali manuscript datesEDMONTON, CANADA—According to a report in The International Business Times, an international group of historians of Indian mathematics disagrees with a study conducted by Oxford University researchers, which claimed the Bakhshali manuscript dated to 200 B.C., and recorded the earliest-known use of the number zero. The critics argue that the text of the Bakhshali manuscript is a unified treatise on arithmetic that was written all at once, by the same scribe, on birch bark leaves dating to different time periods. They suggest the text therefore dates to the time of the youngest birch bark leaves, in the eighth century A.D., but stress that it does contain important calculations using the concept of zero. To read about the original claim, go to "New Dates Push Back Use of Zero."

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