“A treasure trove of Babylonian tablets exists, but only a fraction of them have been studied yet. The mathematical world is only waking up to the fact that this ancient but very sophisticated mathematical culture has much to teach us.”
They suggest that the mathematics of Plimpton 322 indicate that it originally had six columns and 38 rows. They believe it was a working tool, not – as some have suggested – simply a teaching aid for checking calculations. “Plimpton 322 was a powerful tool that could have been used for surveying fields or making architectural calculations to build palaces, temples or step pyramids,” Mansfield said.
As far back as 1945 the Austrian mathematician Otto Neugebauer and his associate Abraham Sachs were the first to note that Plimpton 322 has 15 pairs of numbers forming parts of Pythagorean triples: three whole numbers a, b and c such that a squared plus b squared equal c squared. The integers 3, 4 and 5 are a well-known example of a Pythagorean triple, but the values on Plimpton 322 are often considerably larger with, for example, the first row referencing the triple 119, 120 and 169.