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3,800 year journey from classroom to classroom
Thirty-eight hundred years ago, on the hot river plains of what is now southern Iraq, a Babylonian student did a bit of schoolwork that centuries later would change our understanding of ancient mathematics. The student scooped up a palm-sized clump of wet clay, formed a disc about the size and shape of a hamburger, and let it dry down a bit in the sun. On the surface of the moist clay the student drew a diagram that showed the people of the Old Babylonian Period (1,900–1,700 B.C.E.) fully understood the principles of the “Pythagorean Theorem” 1300 years before Greek geometer Pythagoras was born, and were also capable of calculating the square root of two to six decimal places.


Bleize cave used for Mayan child sacrifices
Grim discoveries in Belize’s aptly named Midnight Terror Cave shed light on a long tradition of child sacrifices in ancient Maya society.

A large portion of 9,566 human bones, bone fragments and teeth found on the cave floor from 2008 to 2010 belonged to individuals no older than 14 years, bioarchaeologist Michael Prout reported April 15 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. Many of the human remains came from 4- to 10-year-olds. Because these bones are so fragmented, it’s difficult to estimate precisely how many individuals lay in the cave.


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