[INDOLOGY] Once again on the origin of zero: the date of the Bakhshali manuscript (or manuscripts?)

Walter Slaje slaje at kabelmail.de
Fri Sep 15 03:01:35 EDT 2017


I fully concur with what Dr Acri has to say in this matter. Moreover, the
initial statement of the interviewed mathematician „The most exciting thing
is that we’ve identified a zero“ is presumptuous, as the „identification“
claimed here is actually decade-long common Indological knowledge easily
traceable in the relevant literature on the subject. I wonder why no
Indologist with a profound disciplinary knowledge was asked to give
qualified statements.


A reproduction together with a transliteration of this famous manuscript
was brought to the public in 1995:

Takao Hayashi, The Bakshali Manuscript. Groningen 1995.


The individual *akṣara*s of the Bakshāli MS can be consulted in their
extracted forms and, in the possible attempt of a fresh dating, compared to
their paleographic environment most conveniently by using the tools of
INDOSKRIPT (http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/falk/):


[image: Inline-Bild 1]





Best regards,

WS

-----------------------------
Prof. Dr. Walter Slaje
Hermann-Löns-Str. 1
D-99425 Weimar
Deutschland

Ego ex animi mei sententia spondeo ac polliceor
studia humanitatis impigro labore culturum et provecturum
non sordidi lucri causa nec ad vanam captandam gloriam,
sed quo magis veritas propagetur et lux eius, qua salus
humani generis continetur, clarius effulgeat.
Vindobonae, die XXI. mensis Novembris MCMLXXXIII.

2017-09-15 2:41 GMT+02:00 Andrea Acri via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info>:

> Dear Camillo
>
> thank you for sharing this news, and especially for your (in)valuable work
> on this most important document. Let me point out at the very outset that
> all I know about this manuscript derives from the Guardian article and
> Wikipedia (disclaimer: I have no access to a library right now!), so please
> forgive me for being so naive.
>
> If the manuscript (however fragmentary it may be) is thought to contain a
> single, unitary text, then the date of its copying (and/or composition?)
> must be the 9th-10th century. I fail to see what is so sensational about
> this apart from the fact that it shows how writing supports that were
> centuries older might have been (re)utilized.  (By the way: is an
> analysis of the ink technically possible?). The earliest attestation of
> the written zero would still be the 8th-century Southeast Asian
> inscriptions (and not the Gwalior temple, as incorrectly reported in the
> article).
>
> But in your message, when you speak about different stratas and tables of
> ak.saras, you clearly imply that this/these manuscript(s) contain(s) a
> composite/heterogeneous text indeed, and that part of it might date back to
> the 3rd-4th century. May I ask you to anticipate/synthesize some of your
> key findings here, or at least clarify this point? And, what is the
> relationship between folios 16 and 17? Do all these folios contain the 0?
>
> Further: I'm not steeped in mathematics either, so I fail to grasp the
> full implications of this statement (especially the second sentence):
>
> "In the fragile document, zero does not yet feature as a number in its own
> right, but as a placeholder in a number system, just as the “0” in “101”
> indicates no tens. It features a problem to which the answer is zero, but
> here the answer is left blank".
>
> Hopefully some of our learned colleagues will be able to clarify this
> point.
>
> Best regards
> Andrea Acri
>
> Sent from my iPhone
>
> On 14 Sep 2017, at 17:15, Camillo Formigatti via INDOLOGY <
> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>
> Dear Colleagues,
>
>
>
> I’m pleased to be finally able to share this exciting news with you:
>
>
>
> https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/sep/14/much-ado-
> about-nothing-ancient-indian-text-contains-earliest-zero-symbol
>
>
>
> I imagine that some of you might probably raise their eyebrows after
> reading this article. The results came as a big surprise to us too, and to
> me were literally jaw-dropping. I realize that these results have several
> implications not only for the history of mathematics, but also for our
> field of study, and I know that the article in The Guardian surely doesn’t
> answer the many questions you might be asking yourselves now. I will try to
> briefly anticipate some of them.
>
>
>
> The decision and implementation of radiocarbon dating the Bakhshali
> manuscript took several months of preparation on the part of the team of
> colleagues with which I collaborated. The team included colleagues from the
> Bodleian Libraries and other University of Oxford departments: David Howell
> (Bodleian Libraries’ Head of Heritage Science), Dr Gillian Evison (Head of
> the Bodleian Libraries' Oriental Section & Indian Institute Librarian),
> Virginia M Lladó-Buisán (Bodleian Libraries’ Head of Conservation and
> Collection Care), Dr David Chivall (Chemistry Laboratory Manager at the
> School of Archaeology of the University of Oxford), and Prof. Marcus du
> Sautoy (Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science
> and Professor of Mathematics at the Oxford University). We decided to take
> samples from three folios in order to be sure to have a sensible margin of
> certainty for the results. I chose folios 16, 17, and 33, and the analysis
> was conducted by Dr Chivall at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit. The
> results of the calibrated age (95.4% confidence interval / cal AD) are as
> follows:
>
>
>
> Folio 16:               224 (95.4%) 383calAD
>
> Folio 17:               680 (74.8%) 779calAD
>
> 790 (20.6%) 868calAD
>
> Folio 33:               885 (95.4%) 993calAD
>
>
>
> We did not expect such a big difference in the date range of the three
> folios. I am currently preparing an article in which I provide the
> background for the choice of these three specific folios, tables of all
> akṣaras from the three folios as an aid to assign the extant folios to the
> different strata of the manuscript (including selected aksaras of other
> dated and undated manuscripts in similar scripts for comparison), and a
> first palaeographical appraisal of the results.
>
>
>
> Best wishes,
>
>
>
> Camillo
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
>
>
> Dr Camillo A. Formigatti
>
> John Clay Sanskrit Librarian
>
>
>
> Bodleian Libraries
>
> The Weston Library
>
> Broad Street, Oxford
>
> OX1 3BG
>
>
>
> Email: camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk
>
> Tel. (office): 01865 (2)77208
> www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk
>
>
>
> *GROW YOUR MIND*
>
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>
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>
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>
>
>
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