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Researchers from the University of Oxford conducted the first ever radiocarbon dating on the Bakhshali manuscript and revealed that it dates from as early as the 3rd century – five centuries older than previously believed.

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Carbon dating indicates that the manuscript dates from as early as the 3rd century, making it the world’s oldest recorded origin of the zero symbol that we use today.Since 1902, it has been housed in the Bodley Library at the University of Oxford.But it will go on public display at the Science Museum in London as a centrepiece of the major exhibition Illuminating India: 5000 Years of Science and Innovation, opening 4 October 2017.Rather than being used on its own, the dot was used as a ‘placeholder’ to indicate orders of magnitude in a number system – for example, the zero denoting a lack of tens in 101.While the use of zero as a placeholder was seen in several different ancient cultures, including the Mayans, the researchers say the symbol in the Bakhshali manuscript it significant for two reasons.Well over 1 billion people live in India today, and roughly 80 percent of the subcontinent’s population is Hindu.

This massive religious majority has influenced the creation of laws that prohibit the harm or slaughter of cows.

Other scholars claim that the strict beef taboo was developed as a way to further differentiate Hindus from Muslims after Islam arrived in India in the early eighth century AD.

Regardless of how the cow taboo began, it has become deeply entrenched in Indian culture.

Previous studies have suggested that Bakhshali manuscript dates from between the 8th and 12th century, based on the style of writing.

But the new carbon dating reveals that the manuscript, which consists of 70 fragile leaves of birch bark, is composed of material from at least three different periods.

There is debate over whether ancient Hindus in the Indus River Valley refused to eat beef.