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Mesopotamian Metrological Lists And Tables:Forgotten Sources

By Christine Proust

Abstract

International audienceFrom the outset of Mesopotamian archaeology, the archaeologists have constantly been excavating school tablets from the major sites of the Near East; these tablets were found incorporated in walls, in filling material, in pavements or abandoned in buildings which housed a scribal school. The majority of the tablets date from the Old Babylonian period, i.e. the beginning of the second millennium B.C. Today these tablets are spread all over the world, kept in the reserve collections of several important archaeology museums of the Near-East, of Europe and of the United States. Ten to twenty percent of these tablets are mathematical tablets. Some of the school mathematical texts have drawn the attention of the historians of science, in particular the numerical tables (multiplication tables, tables of reciprocals, tables of squares, etc.); but others remained in the dark. The latter were the metrological tablets, i.e. tablets containing enumerations of measures of various types (capacities, weights, surfaces, lengths) either in the form of simple lists, or in the form of correspondence tables. Why have these metrological texts been studied so little? What do they tell us about our comprehension of cuneiform mathematics? These are the questions this article intends to answer

Topics: Cuneiform mathematics, Assyriology, Scribal school, Sexagesimal place value notation, [ MATH.MATH-HO ] Mathematics [math]/History and Overview [math.HO], [ SHS ] Humanities and Social Sciences, [ SHS.HISPHILSO ] Humanities and Social Sciences/History, Philosophy and Sociology of Sciences, [ SHS.CLASS ] Humanities and Social Sciences/Classical studies
Publisher: HAL CCSD
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1007/978-90-481-3676-6_8
OAI identifier: oai:HAL:hal-01139653v1
Provided by: Hal-Diderot

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