Many people believe that the origins of the concept and number zero were invented by the Arabic, and then brought to Europe about the same time the Crusades were happening. According to John Matson, however, zero is far older than this and its origins are far more complex.
In actuality, zero was discovered or invented (you choose, really) in two places. First, it was born in Babylon before it migrated to India and Africa, and eventually it finally arrived in Europe. At first, it served as a placeholder--for example to differentiate 10 from 100 from 1000. The number zero--that thing in between negative one and positive one, developed later in India. Prior to that, it was merely a punctuation mark. It took a while for zero to catch on, and it even was associated with dark magic.
Second, it was born in Central America in roughly the same time. Here, it seemed that it was truly an invention, built from scratch. In both hemispheres, it emerged simply as a way to denote the absence of numbers. I guess it is kind of like the anti-number.
The Roll Call
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