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Aztec surveyors were very accurate

A mathematical review of the Codex Vergara, a document which contains detailed map of 386 farms, has shown that Aztec surveyors were incredibly accurate.

Using these records, Clara Garza-Hume, a mathematician at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, and colleagues went back to the codex to check the Aztecs’ math. That was easy for the rectangular-shaped farms but much harder for the more than 200 recorded plots that, although still four-sided, lacked that uniform shape. The Aztecs hadn’t yet stumbled upon trigonometry, so their maps failed to record at what angles the farms’ borders joined up. Since the exact angles weren’t clear from the maps, such odd four-sided shapes could have taken on a number of different forms, Garza-Hume says. “The side lengths remain constant, but you can still wiggle the figure and obtain many different areas.”

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Story: Daniel Strain, Science Magazine | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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