The zero might be older than you thought
  • Story Crux Team
Bakhshali manuscript

The symbol ‘0’ is familiar to all, and is believed to have originated in India. Its exact origins are not certain, though, and a recently-discovered piece of information suggests it is older than believed thus far!

An ancient Indian text, called the Bakhshali manuscript, lies in the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford. It comprises 70 leaves of birch bark and is filled with mathematics and text in the Sanskrit. Across the text, there are hundreds of zeros denoted with a dot, which later evolved into the symbol with a hole that is all-too-familiar today.

Origins of zero


The manuscript was believed to be from the 9th century, but first-time carbon dating – done recently – on this manuscript suggests that the oldest pages are from somewhere between 224-383 AD. This means it predates a 9th-century inscription of zero found on the wall of a temple in Gwalior, which till date was believed to be the oldest recorded example of a zero.

Bakhshali University of Oxford Zero