Tag Archives: Mesopotamia

MesoCalc: a Mesopotamian calculator

shid  The SAW project provided Mesopotamian mathematics with a new calculator: MesoCalc . This calculator allows you to perform a number of arithmetical operations in sexagesimal place value notation, in floating as well as in absolute notation.

Among features are:
– conversion between decimal and sexagesimal
– regularity test
– prime factorization
– addition and subtraction
– multiplication, reciprocal, quotient, square, cube, square and cubic roots
– tables (multiplication, reciprocal)
– lists of regular numbers
– metrological transformations (in progress)

This program was implemented by Baptiste Mélès (Archives Henri Poincaré – University of Lorraine) with  scientific assistance of Christine Proust (CNRS, Université Paris-Diderot), in the framework of SAW project.

This software is free under GPL license. You can download the offline use on your computer or phone, disseminate it, change the source code, even redistribute your changes under the same license. If you find any bugs or would like to suggest new features, please write to Baptiste Mélès (<baptiste.meles@gmail.com>).

Three questions to Alexander Jones

This is the fourth interview in the series Three questions, in which scholars,  invited to participate in the SAW events, answer three questions about their research.

It is my honour to introduce Alexander Jones, who will give a talk Mathematics and Metrology in a Fourth-Century Greek Papyrus Codex at the conference Cultures of Computation and Quantification in late March.

Alexander Jones is Professor of the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University. He studied Classics at the University of British Columbia and the history of the early mathematical sciences in the Department of the History of Mathematics at Brown University. Before coming to NYU, he was for sixteen years on the faculty of the Department of Classics and the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. His work centers on the history and transmission of the mathematical sciences, especially astronomy. He is the author of several editions of Greek scientific texts, among them Pappus of Alexandria’s commentary on the corpus of Hellenistic geometrical treatises known as the “Treasury of Analysis”; an anonymous Byzantine astronomical handbook based on Islamic sources; and a collection of about two hundred fragmentary astronomical texts, tables, and horoscopes from the papyri excavated a century ago by Grenfell and Hunt at Oxyrhynchus. His current research interests include the contacts between Babylonian and Greco-Roman astronomy and astrology, the Antikythera Mechanism and other artifacts of Hellenistic astronomy, and the scientific work of Claudius Ptolemy.

Natalie Cernecka: How did you become interested in history of ancient mathematics and astronomy?
Alexander Jones: During my undergraduate study of Classics at the University of British Columbia, I chanced upon Neugebauer’s Exact Sciences in Antiquity on the shelves of the Mathematics Library. It revealed to me the existence of a field where I might apply a love of mathematics and puzzle-solving to ancient texts, with much more direct engagement with the manuscript sources than most classicists ever have. I was fortunate to be able to study the history of the ancient mathematical sciences in Brown University’s History of Mathematics Department when it was still at its full strength, with Gerald Toomer and David Pingree teaching and Neugebauer and Abe Sachs still strong presences though officially retired. As I came to know the material better, ancient astronomy increasingly attracted me because the sources are so varied and conducive to studying the transformations that take place in connection with transfer of methods. I am deeply interested in the phenomena of transmission not just between geographically distinct cultures but also between different intellectual communities within a culture. Continue reading

The SAW project is mentioned by Mathématiques de la planète Terre 2013

The website Mathématiques de la planète Terre 2013, which publishes a daily post on scientific problems related to mathematics, mentions the SAW project in a post on construction works in Mesopotamia, by Cécile Michel. She reminds us that bricks being main construction material in Mesopotamia, it was useful to know how many bricks were needed to construct a building using different methods — hence many calculation problems and exercises using bricks as quantifying units for volumes. A session of the workshop Cultures of Computation and Quantification dedicated to quantifying with bricks, volume units, capacity units and weight units in Mesopotamia will take place on Friday 1 February 2013.


Seminar Numbers, operations and dispositifs of calculation

The seminar Numbers, operations and dispositifs of calculation will take place on Monday 14 January 2013, 9:30 – ca. 13:30, in room 646A-Mondrian of the Bâtiment Condorcet. Maps and directions can be found here. The seminar is pprepared by Christine Proust and forms part of the seminar series History and Philosophy of Mathematics.


9:30–10:00 Christine Proust (SPHERE & SAW)
Some remarks on the relationships between numbers and operations as evidenced by cuneiform sources from the early second millennium BCE

10:00–11:30 Charles Burnett (University of London)
The Problem with Place Value

11:30–13:00 Yifu Chen (SPHERE)
Le cas des méthodes de multiplication à l’aide de boulier

Seminar “Types of text” in relation with the question “Text as document”

The seminar  “Types of text” in relation with the question “Text as document” will take place on Thursday 10 January 2013, from 9:30 to 17:30, in room 366A-Klimt of the Bâtiment Condorcet. Maps and directions can be found here. The seminar forms part of the seminar series  History of Science, History of Text.


Bob Middeke-Conlin (SAW, SPHERE) and Cécile Michel (CNRS (HAROC) & SAW)
Classifying texts in Ancient Mesopotamia: Some definitions

Michael Friedrich (Universität Hamburg, Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures)
What to do with non-documentary manuscripts found in late pre-imperial and early imperial Chinese tombs (3rd – 2nd centuries BCE)?