Written Mathematical Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia: Knowledge, ignorance, and reasonable guesses

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskning


Writing, as well as various mathematical techniques, were created in proto-literate
Uruk in order to serve accounting, and Mesopotamian mathematics as we know
it was always expressed in writing. In so far, mathematics generically regarded was
always part of the generic written tradition.
However, once we move away from the generic perspective, things become
much less easy. If we look at basic numeracy from Uruk IV until Ur III, it is
possible to point to continuity and thus to a “tradition”, and also if we look at
place-value practical computation from Ur III onward – but already the relation
of the latter tradition to type of writing after the Old Babylonian period is not
well elucidated by the sources.
Much worse, however, is the situation if we consider the sophisticated
mathematics created during the Old Babylonian period. Its connection to the
school institution and the new literate style of the period is indubitable; but we
find no continuation similar to that descending from Old Babylonian beginnings
in fields like medicine and extispicy. Still worse, if we look closer at the Old
Babylonian material, we seem to be confronted with a small swarm of attempts
to create traditions, but all rather short-lived. The few mathematical texts from
the Late Babylonian (including the Seleucid) period also seem to illustrate
attempts to establish norms rather than to be witnesses of a survival lasting
sufficiently long to allow us to speak of “traditions”.
Antal sider27
StatusUdgivet - 2011
BegivenhedTraditions of Written Knowledge in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia - Frankfurt am Main, Tyskland
Varighed: 3 dec. 20114 dec. 2011


KonferenceTraditions of Written Knowledge in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia
ByFrankfurt am Main

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