An Old Babylonian Problem Text
The tablet pictured below is an example of an Old Babylonian problem text.
Although only part of the tablet remains, originally it had 22 related
problems arranged in ascending order of difficulty. For each one, the problem
is stated and the answer is given, but there are no indications of the
method used to find the solution. The tablet is YBC 4652 in the Yale
Babylonian Collection. It was first published by Neugebauer and Sachs
Cuneiform Texts, as Text R.
A translation of the first complete problem is:
I found a stone. I did not weigh it.
A seventh I added. An eleventh I added.
I weighed it. 1 mana. What was the original
weight of the stone? The weight of the stone was 2/3 mana 8 gin 22
The other problems are all similar, but more complicated.
A discussion of the problems on this tablet and a suggested procedure
for finding the solutions is in my paper:
'Weighing stones in ancient Mesopotamia'. Historia
Mathematica 29, 1-12.
I thank Professor W.W. Hallo for permission to use the images of the
Go to Mesopotamian
Last modified: 19 September 2002
Duncan J. Melville