A recent (2016) study, Ancient Babylonian astronomers calculated Jupiter’s position from the area under a time-velocity graph examines a cuneiform script and gives evidence that that Babylonians in 350-50 BCE were able to use geometrical methods to calculate exact planet positions (such as Jupiter), and describe its motion in an abstract mathematical space (prefiguring the methods of the Oxford Calculators)wiki. This pre-dates the Europeans who were able to do this in the 14th century (e.g. computing a body’s displacement as an area in time-velocity space).

The abstract states:

This interpretation is prompted by a newly discovered tablet on which the same computation is presented in an equivalent arithmetical formulation. The tablets date from 350 to 50 BCE. The trapezoid procedures offer the first evidence for the use of geometrical methods in Babylonian mathematical astronomy, which was thus far viewed as operating exclusively with arithmetical concepts.

Is this study reliable?

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    I think that this needs to be reopened. The question is skeptical of the results of a recent Science paper (linked in a previous comment). Although I don't agree with the policy, previous discussions on Meta have declared that reviews of scientific journal papers are fair game on Skeptics.SE (for example this). Therefore, if the poster is genuinely skeptical of the paper, this should be reopened since its fair game.
    – KAI
    Sep 28, 2016 at 17:06
  • @called2voyage The question should be cleaned up, but the Sitchin site doesn't make any novel claims about the paper (other than mis-stating the 14th Century as the 1400s). It gives a 2 sentence intro then quotes the Abstract. So addressing the website is the same as addressing the paper. The question here should just be edited so that there is no mention of Sitchin and the Science article is linked directly since the website is secondary.
    – KAI
    Sep 28, 2016 at 17:48
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    @kenorb Agree to reopen, but I don't think it is answerable yet. This paper is too new for it to have been commented on much elsewhere. Sep 28, 2016 at 18:21
  • I think this should be moved to " History of Science and Mathematics". That is where the experts roam.
    – fdb
    Sep 28, 2016 at 20:25
  • @fdb Good idea. HSM wouldn't have the restriction against original research like here, so if there was anyone around who knew about the field they could answer immediately without waiting for other publications that address this paper. Sep 28, 2016 at 20:57

1 Answer 1


One way to know if a claim is reliable is to check how well-regarded the person is who is making the claim. Google Scholar makes this easy.


As of October 8, 2018, the first five papers by Mathieu Ossendrijver related to astronomy and / or Babylon have been referenced collectively 521 times by others. He has written a book and at least 3 papers on Babylonian astronomy.

At first pass, this research absolutely passes the "stinky fish" test we use to rule out pseudoscience. Ossendrijver is methodical, thorough, contemporary, and mainstream.

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