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From the ‘it turns out they were much smarter than we thought’ department: new research, based on a newly discovered ancient clay tablet, has found that the ancient Babylonians tracked the planet Jupiter using maths that was previously thought to have been invented 1400 years later:

Newly translated ancient tablets show that ancient Babylonian astronomers used unexpectedly advanced geometry to understand the planets.

The find, described on Thursday in the journal Science, reveals that Babylonians tracked Jupiter by calculating the areas of trapezoids they used to symbolize the planet’s motion across the sky. This geometrical trick rewrites the history books: The technique was thought to have originated in England more than a millennium later.

The study also fills in crucial gaps, says Niek Veldhuis of the University of California, Berkeley, who wasn’t involved with the study, since it “finally connects Babylonian mathematical astronomy with geometrical mathematics”—a missing link that has eluded scholars for more than a century.

Science has the full-text of the paper for those interested, and have also posted the following short video for the tl;dr crowd:

Link: Babylonians Tracked Jupiter With Advanced Tools: Trapezoids

Paper: Ancient Babylonian astronomers calculated Jupiter’s position from the area under a time-velocity graph