Friday, 24 May 2013

Zero in a Śāka Date from Cambodia, 683 CE

For students of southeast Asian history - or world history, I suppose - this is rather cool: an inscription from Cambodia with the oldest known Eurasian zero inscribed on it.  It's in a date, 605 Shaka.  The Shaka era (Saka, or Śāka; the article uses 'Chaka', which I've not seen anywhere else) began in 78 CE, so the date in the Gregorian calendar would be 683.  The inscription is clearly in the Pallava script.

I doubt this is the earliest zero in the world.  In fact, I'm sure it isn't; there must be Mayan zeroes out there of similar or earlier date, even if they were used for different purposes, and if it has been found in Cambodia to express a date in an Indian calendar in an Indian script, it must have had earlier Indian precedents.  The comments on the article say the same thing.  But still, it's an interesting artifact, one originally discovered by Georges Coedes and rediscovered by the author of that article.

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