University of Oxford
Published on Sep 14, 2017
The Bakhshali manuscript is an ancient Indian mathematical manuscript written on more than 70 leaves of birch bark, found in 1881. It is notable for having a dot representing zero in it.
The date of the manuscript has intrigued scholars for years, with many believing it dated from the 9th century, as does the oldest known example of a zero in India, in Gwailor temple. Now a team of researchers at the University of Oxford and the Bodleian Libraries have carbon dated the manuscript and found that it dates from between the second and fourth centuries!
The Bakhshali manuscript therefore contains the oldest recorded example of the symbol that we use for zero today. This symbol would then grow into something that exists in its own right to capture the concept of nothing.