EARLY (POSS: EARLIEST) MATHEMATICAL TEXT

MS 3047
MS Short Title EARLY (POSS: EARLIEST) MATHEMATICAL TEXT
Text
  1. METRO-MATHEMATICAL TABLE OF SIDES AND AREAS OF 6 SIMILAR LARGE RECTANGLES WHERE THE LONG SIDE IS 60 TIMES LONGER THAN THE SHORT SIDES WHICH ARE ASCENDING FROM 5, 10, 20, - - TO 50 NINDA
  2. GEOMETRICAL PROGRESSION OF 5 SEXAGESIMAL NUMBERS POSSIBLY REPRESENTING AREAS
Description MSin Old Sumerian on clay, Shuruppak, Sumer, 27th c. BC, 1 tablet, 7,2x7,1x2,0 cm, 28 compartments in cuneiform script.
Context The tablet probably comes from Early Dynastic IIIa Shuruppak like the previously published TSS 926 (1937). TSS 188 (1937), and VAT 12593 (1923 & 1993), also metro-mathematical school texts dealing with areas of quadrilaterals.
Commentary

Probably the oldest known mathematical text. The sides of the 6 rectangles in the ratio 1:60 demonstrates that the mathematics taught in the scribe schools in Sumer before the middle of the third millennium BC was unexpectedly sophisticated. Such a tablet cannot have been of any practical use; it is an example of mathematics for its own sake.

The table on the reverse side is of a new type with no known parallel; it is the only pre-Babylonian example of a geometric progression.

Shuruppak was excavated 1902-1903 and 1931.

Published Jöran Friberg: Matematiska kilskriftstexter i den norska Schøyensamlingen; in: Nordisk Matematisk Tidskrift, 52:4, 2004, pp. 151-152. Jöran Friberg: A remarkable Collection of Babylonian Mathematical Texts. Springer 2007. Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences. Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection, vol. 6, Cuneiform Texts I. pp. 150-153.
Place of origin Sumer
Dates 27c BC

Location