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Square root approximations in Old Babylonian mathematics: YBC 7289 in context



We consider several aspects of the role and evaluation of the four-sexagesimal-place approximation to root 2 on the well-known Old Babylonian tablet YBC 7289. By referring to what is known about OB school texts, we show that this text is most probably a school exercise by a trainee scribe who got the approximation from a coefficient list. These coefficient lists are briefly described, with their use in geometrical problems. We consider other texts involving square roots and derive an algorithm for evaluating them, which complies with all known OB examples, from a simple geometrical construction of the type that seems to underlie many other OB procedures. (C) Academic Press

Topics: Q, QA
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