Instead of self-glorifying episodic re-writes, how about discussing
continuous, progressive and well reasoned contributions to culture and
While that's an admirable thought, the reality is that modern mathematics owes very little to the prehistoric findings pre ca 1500. The breakthroughs that transformed mathematics into the tool we use today occurred mostly in Europe during the Renaissance period and later. Perhaps the only significant (*) contribution before then is Euclid's tour de force (**), technically also in Europe.
(*) to modern mathematics
(**) I'm talking of course of the logical structure, not the actual geometrical results.
Modern mathematics only became possible by inventing a language in which abstractions can be precisely and economically stated. Before this happened, mathematical ideas could only be expressed in analogies, with very lenghty, hard to interpret, paragraphs. It took until the Renaissance for mathematicians to understand that.
Think about legalese. That's exactly what old mathematical documents are like.
Over time, symbols with precise meanings were invented. This is how future generations of mathematicians are able to completely assimilate, and then surpass, in a very short time, the discoveries of their teachers.
Incidentally, the lack of such a development in the legal world is one reason why there is so much confusion and irrationality in that world. It's literally at the same primitive stage that pre-Renaissance mathematics used to be, but without so much even as Euclid's Elements for a guide.
Before the modern European era, mathematical ideas were sporadic, and highly subject to interpretation. Where one scholar sees a universal theorem, another only sees a single numerical example, clumsily expressed. More often than not, generalizations were just wishful thinking. Once the modern era began around the time of Descartes, these old results could be rediscovered easily enough by anyone using the modern mathematics.
That's the power of the new mathematical language, and that's also the reason that the old results, while mildly amusing to
read about, are not important milestones for modern mathematics.