Written mathematical traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia: Knowledge, ignorance, and reasonable guesses

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Abstract

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 the 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”.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TitelTraditions of Written Knowledge in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia : Proceedings of Two Workshops Held at Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main in December 2011 and May 2012
RedaktørerDaliah Bawanypeck , Annette Imhausen
Udgivelses stedMünster
ForlagUgarit-verlag
Publikationsdato2015
Sider189-213
ISBN (Trykt)978-3-86835-085-2
ISBN (Elektronisk)978-3-86835-131-6
StatusUdgivet - 2015
BegivenhedTraditions of Written Knowledge in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia - Goethe-Universität, Exzellenzcluster "Normative Orders", Frankfurt am Main, Tyrkiet
Varighed: 18 maj 201218 maj 2012
Konferencens nummer: 2

Workshop

WorkshopTraditions of Written Knowledge in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia
Nummer2
LokationGoethe-Universität, Exzellenzcluster "Normative Orders"
LandTyrkiet
ByFrankfurt am Main
Periode18/05/201218/05/2012
NavnAlter Orient und Altes Testament
Vol/bindAOAT 403
ISSN0931-4296

Citer dette

Høyrup, J. (2015). Written mathematical traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia: Knowledge, ignorance, and reasonable guesses. I D. Bawanypeck , & A. Imhausen (red.), Traditions of Written Knowledge in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia: Proceedings of Two Workshops Held at Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main in December 2011 and May 2012 (s. 189-213). Ugarit-verlag. Alter Orient und Altes Testament, Bind. AOAT 403 https://www.ugarit-verlag.com/publikation.html?id=26