Article ID: CBB000932283

Quantifier et calculer: usages des nombres à Nippur (2008)


This paper is based on a set of 800 mathematical tablets from Nippur---the cultural capital of Mesopotamia---dating from the Old Babylonian period (beginning of the second millennium BC) and excavated at the end of the 19th century by an American archaeological team. This set is mainly composed of school tablets and has been divided into three collections now in Philadelphia, Istanbul and Jena. It is only recently that these collections were studied systematically. Their analysis allows us to reconstitute the whole curriculum of scribal mathematical education from beginners' learning exercises in measures and numbers to advanced level volume problems. This paper focuses on the way measures and numbers are written and displayed on the tablets available to us. By analysing how and in which order these writings were introduced in the curriculum, this article tries to enlighten the specific function which was assigned to each class of graphemes. One of the main goals is to reconstitute the computational practices to which the school exercises refer. The broader issue is to grasp the conception of numbers, surfaces and volumes which was transmitted in the school setting of Nippur, and to better understand the background of the mathematical thought elaborated in southern Mesopotamia at the beginning of the second millennium. Keywords: Mesopotamia, place value notation, metrology, cuneiform writing, scribal school, curriculum, surface, volume, metrological table, nalbanum, brick


Description An analysis of the tablets from Nippur in order to reconstitute the computational practices to which the school exercises refer.

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Authors & Contributors
Robson, Eleanor
Yusta, Piedad
Verderame, Lorenzo
Clark, Kathleen M.
Proust, Christine
Geller, Markham J.
Sciamvs: Sources and Commentaries in Exact Sciences
Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan
British Society for the History of Mathematics Bulletin
Journal for the History of Astronomy
Osmanli Bilimi Arastirmalari: Studies in Ottoman Science
Università di Messina, Dipartimento di scienze dell'antichità
de Gruyter
Institut Français d'Études Anatoliennes Georges-Dumezil
Tablets; papyri
Cuneiform inscriptions
Primary literature (historical sources)
Time Periods
21st century
Middle and Near East
Babylon (extinct city)
United States
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

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