Math 323: Fall 2005

Day 3: Cuneiform arithmetic


The development of cuneiform and the sexagesimal place-value system.
Ur III records and Old Babylonian sources.
Cuneiform arithmetic in Old Babylonian period. Table texts.
Note the importance in Old Babylonian mathematics of multiplication, and the attendant problem of reciprocals.
Note also the centrality of the 'list principle'.


My Old Babylonian pages:
    the OB summary,
    the two pages on cuneiform numbers: numbers up to 60 and larger numbers,
    the pages on multiplication and reciprocal table texts.
Look at some real table tablets (follow links from the mesomath top page).

Additional Reading

H.J. Nissen, P. Damerow, R.K. Englund, Archaic Bookkeeping, Chapter 15.


Practice with cuneiform numbers.
Cuneiform arithmetic exercises
Translate a multiplication table from a copy.
On to Day 4.

Up to Ancient and Classical Mathematics

Last modified: 5 September 2005
Duncan J. Melville

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