A Remarkable Collection of Babylonian Mathematical Texts: Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection: Cuneiform Texts I

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Springer Science & Business Media, Jul 31, 2007 - Mathematics - 533 pages
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The book analyzes the mathematical tablets which are in the possession of a private collector, Martin Schoyen. This collection contains all sorts of tablets, some similar to classical ones but also others with fascinating new material. Here the author translates their mathematical content, compares it with previous known material, then evaluates the period of the tablet and its purpose. This allows the author to provide new insights into the interpretation of some classical tablets, as for example Plimpton 322 which has an exclusive appendix. What makes this book so unique is the light being shed on Babylonian mathematics. For instance, new evidence of Babylonian familiarity with sophisticated mathematical objects is provided, including the knowledge of the three dimensional Pythagorean equation and the familiarity with the geometry of the icosahedron is new and unexpected. The author is a master of analysis of the errors found in the tablets. It is well known that computational errors in the tablets are revealing of the algorithms employed in the computations. The author exploits with mastery this clever technique to gain new insight in the mathematical reasoning behind the content of the tablets. From the analysis it becomes increasingly clear that Babylonians were outstanding calculators, probably only comparable in modern times with exhibition genius calculators. For example, it appears that schoolboys were familiar with the multiplication tables at least up to 25!. He also gives numerous geometrical possible explanations and interpretations of the tablets. Another very important finding is the use of the zero notation in novel contexts and periods. The book is very carefully written and organized, the tablets are classified according to their mathematical content and purpose, while useful drawings and pictures are provided for the most interesting tablets. The author makes a great effort to make the material accessible to both assyriologists and mathematicians. There is an introduction with basic background on babylonian mathematics and on numerous occasions the author reviews basic mathematical material
 

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User Review  - KimMarie1 - LibraryThing

I enjoy studying cuneiform texts and in particular ancient mathematics but I found this book quite hard to follow. The examples would often note explain in detail how one gets from point A to point D ... Read full review

Contents

How to Get a Better Understanding of Mathematical Cuneiform Texts
1
OldBabylonianArithmeticalHandTablets
13
OldBabylonianArithmeticalTableTexts
45
6
147
TheBeginningandtheEndoftheSumerianKingList
231
Three Old Babylonian Mathematical Problem Texts from Uruk
245
Three Problem Texts Not Belonging to Any Known Group of Texts
295
Subtractive Notations for Numbers in Mathematical Cuneiform Texts
355
Old Babylonian Combined Metrological Tables
398
Old Akkadian Metric Division Exercises
407
TSS 50 671 Shuruppak Sexagesimal Metric Division Exercises ED IIIa
414
A Combined MetroMathematical Table Text
419
A Parallel Text from Adab ED IIIb
425
Plimpton 322 a Table of Parameters for igiigi bi Problems
433
ManyPlace Squares of Squares in Late Babylonian Mathematical Texts
453
VocabularyfortheMSTexts
503

The Old Babylonian Combined Multiplication Table
361
Cuneiform Systems of Notations for Numbers and Measures
373
Old Babylonian Complete Metrological Tables
385
The Complete Metrological tables for Systems LnNSOB and LcNSOB
391

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About the author (2007)

Joran Friberg is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.

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