Ancient Jugs Hold the Secret to Practical Mathematics
Archaeologists in the eastern Mediterranean region have been unearthing spherical jugs, used by the ancients for storing and trading oil, wine, and other valuable commodities. Because we’re used to the metric system, which defines units of volume based on the cube, modern archaeologists believed that the merchants of antiquity could only approximately assess the capacity of these round jugs, says Prof. Itzhak Benenson of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geography. Now an interdisciplinary collaboration between Prof. Benensonand Prof. Israel Finkelstein of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures has revealed that, far from relying on approximations, merchants would have had precise measurements of their wares – and therefore known exactly what to charge their clients.
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