About 9 years ago in 2008, a former student of Tsinghua University in China donated around 2,500 bamboo “strips” containing vast amounts of knowledge and history of China. Included in the bunch was 21 strips containing multiplication tables for simple calculations. They were likely used for trade or land area calculations. The strips were crafted around 2300 years ago and survived the book burning of Qin Shi Huang. Aside from the ‘calculator’, on the strips are around 65 ancient texts with artifacts from the Warring States Period in China.
Guiness Book of World Records recognizes this as the world’s first decimal calculator.
The student noticed the strips starting to decay, after this time the strips were soft like tofu and very fragile. Some had mold forming which would have quickly decayed the strips if not quickly dealt with. With such a vast collection they alone did not have the resources to properly preserve the strips and chose to donate them. A team of 10 people worked for 4 months cleaning the strips day and night.
Some of the strips are still unread and could contain anything, the team really enjoys the excitement of reading them. They now hold meetings on Monday discussing and reading the strips for new artifacts.