Ancient mathematics established norms across international trade networks
Geography professor Itzahk Benenson and archaeology professor (and BAR author) Israel Finkelstein recognized that ancient trading systems relied on calculations between circumference and volume after mathematician Elana Zapassky constructed 3D models of hundreds of vessels from Canaanite levels at Megiddo. After noticing patterning in circumferences, the researchers dropped their reliance on metric units, switching to ancient measurements. The spherical ancient jugs had a circumference of one royal Egyptian cubit, and volumes of exactly one half hekat (equivalent to 2.54 quarts).
Standardized trade systems and ancient measurements are the predecessors of the modern, globalized world. Explore connections between antiquity and the present in the BAS DVD Antiquity and the Modern World. Top scholars discuss themes ranging from ancient environmentalism to the modern use of technology to interpret artifacts.
The research suggests that the ancient trading systems adopted a measurements “developed by the ancient Egyptians and used in the Eastern Mediterranean from about 1,500 to 700 B.C.E.” The new data not only sheds light on ancient mathematics and Eastern Mediterranean trade systems, but also teaches about hegemony in the region. Professor Israel Finkelstein suggests that standardization in the ancient world implies power structures devised around extensive bureaucratic influence. He explains “the use of the Egyptian method is a strong indicator of Egyptian power in this region during a specific period of time.”
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