Babylonian mathematics. Eleanor Robson University of Cambridge. Outline. Introducing ourselves Going to school in ancient Babylonia Learning about Babylonian numbers Learning about Babylonian measurement and fairness Question time. Who were the Babylonians?. Where did they live?
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University of Cambridge
The Babylonians lived here, 5000-2000 years ago
What sort of people wrote those tablets and why?
Tablets don’t rot like paper or papyrus do
They got lost, thrown away, or re-used
Archaeologists dig them up just like pots, bones or buildingsThe archaeology of Babylonian maths
Clay, paper, screen
The way they thought about it:
MeasurementsWas Babylonian maths so different from ours?Isn’t maths just maths?
• What do you think they wrote instead?
"Triangle" is actually santakkum "cuneiform wedge" — and doesn\'t have to have straight edges
King Zimri-Lim (c.1780 BC) receiving measuring equipment from the great goddess Inana
Inana’s Descent to the Underworld, ETCSL 1.7.1
If a merchant gives grain or silver as an interest-bearing loan, he shall take 100 sila per gur (= 33%) as interest; if he gives silver as an interest-bearing loan, he shall take 36 grains of silver per shekel (= 20%) as interest.
King Hammurabi and the sun-god Shamash, c.1760 BC(on Hammurabi’s law code)
If a (female) innkeeper refuses to accept grain for the price of beer but accepts only silver measured by the large weight, thus reducing the value of beer in relation to the value of grain, they shall establish the guilt of that (female) innkeeper and they shall throw her into the river.