The Bakhshali Manuscript

Date uncertain; no later than 12th century

Manuscript

A leaf from a birch bark manuscript that was discovered in 1881 by a farmer while digging a field about fifty miles from modern Peshawar in Pakistan. The text is a collection of algorithms and sample problems in verse, with a commentary explaining them in a combination of prose and numerical notation. It provides unique evidence for how medieval Indian mathematics was written in manuscript. Numerals are expressed in decimal place form and the zero is represented by a round dot. Quantities are expressed in numerals set off from the text by horizontal and vertical boxes. Fractions are written in the familiar way, but with no line dividing numerator and denominator, and negative values are shown by a small cross after the number, similar to the modern ‘+’ sign.

Comments

What makes this a treasure?

Froyo

Posted by Jemidia

On 06/03/2014

IT WOULD BE RELEVANT TO NOTE THE ESTIMATED AGE (POSSIBLY 3RD-4TH C AD), AND CULTURAL CONTEXT. TEXT IN A SANSKRIT/PAKRIT LANGUAGE. CARBON 14 TEST?

Posted by GREGORY WHITTINGHAM

On 13/01/2013

It's difficult to judge how valuable this is without any translation. It would be very interesting to hear the tone of voice and the poetic style of a mathematical document, since these aspects of culture have since become extremely estranged. Now, algorithms are only mathematically beautiful, but have lost their connection to the other arts.

Posted by Sophie

On 12/01/2012

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