Cuneiform numbers were written using a combination of just two signs: a
vertical wedge for '1' and a corner wedge for '10'. Handwriting varied as
much in Old Babylonian times as it does now but the basic system of numbers
is illustrated below.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | ||||

5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | ||||

9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | ||||

13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | ||||

17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | ||||

30 | 40 | 50 | 60 |

Some common variants are

for 4 | |

for 7 | |

for 8. |

Occasionally, 19 was written as something like
, meaning 20 - 1, although there are a huge number of minor variations in
the way this sign is written.

Additionally, there were special signs for some common fractions.
These were used when the numbers stood for metrological quantities, such
as 1/2 gin.

1/2 | |

1/3 | |

2/3 | |

5/6 |

To find out how Mesopotamian scribes wrote numbers larger than 60, go
to the larger
numbers page.

If you want to know the Sumerian and Akkadian words for numbers, go here.

For practice in writing and reading cuneiform numbers, try a worksheet,
or a different
one.

Go up to Mesopotamian Mathematics

Last modified: 23 September 2003

Duncan J. Melville

Comments to dmelville@stlawu.edu