The photo above shows the oldest known zero in India, dating from a Vishnu temple built in 876 CE. It’s from a fascinating article called “Understanding Ancient Indian Mathematics” featuring accounts of ancient Indian scholars’ independent derivation of concepts like pi, Pythagorean ratios, powers of ten and the decimal system. It’s an important reminder that ancient science wasn’t limited to Western cultures, and the East-West transfer of theories and concepts was the world’s first information superhighway.
About 7,000 years ago, high in Spain’s northern Cantabrian mountains, a pair of weary hunters took refuge in a deep cavern, never to emerge again. Until 2006, that is, when these early humans were uncovered by cave explorers.
Dating from pre-agricultural Europe, these remains predate Ötzi the Iceman by nearly two millenia. Recently, scientists were able to piece together about 1% of each caveman’s genome, using techniques right out of CSI: Iceman.
The DNA of these early Iberians does not appear related to modern Spanish and Portuguese, but rather more closely related to Northern Europeans. Certain parts of their DNA show that early Europeans from Poland and Lithuania were brethren of those as far away as Spain … truly nomadic hunter-gatherers!
These represent the earliest genome sequences of modern humans. The percentage of the genome that they sequence should go up as the team continues its work, and we’ll know even more about how the earliest humans in Europe contributed to the world we see today.