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Numerical tables in ancient Mesopotamian mathematics: a new survey, a historiographic assessment and the edtion of three new tablets from the Louvre

Grant number: 12/19909-6
Support Opportunities:Regular Research Grants
Duration: April 01, 2013 - March 31, 2015
Field of knowledge:Humanities - History - History of Science
Principal Investigator:Carlos Henrique Barbosa Gonçalves
Grantee:Carlos Henrique Barbosa Gonçalves
Host Institution: Escola de Artes, Ciências e Humanidades (EACH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


This project pertains to both the history of sciences, dealing specifically with mathematical practices, and Assyriology, that is to say, the study of Ancient Mesopotamia. The objects of research are the so-called Mesopotamian numerical tables, clay tablets inscribed with the cuneiform script that present, in tabular form, results of arithmetical operations that should be learnt by heart. These texts were produced mainly in scribal education contexts, during the Old Babylonian period (c.2000-1600 A.E.C). My goal is to compose a new general study on the theme, through a survey of the specimens of this genre that are known at the moment, linking them, whenever possible, to other genres of mathematical texts and mapping out their regional, chronological and social variations. A second goal, entangled by the analysis I will carry out of the publications of and about these artefacts, which began approximately a hundred years ago, is to understand which changes of perspectives the historiography went through as regards the study of numerical tables. Furthermore, this project has as a goal the publication of three tablets from the collection of the Louvre Museum that are still unedited. Finally, the investigation to be conducted and the examination of the tablets to be edited have the goal of deepening and enlarging my skills in the field. The three first goals are not independent, once the publication of new tablets can make sense only if understood under the light of studies made so far. The third goal, highly esteemed in the Assyriological milieu, has the potential of giving a very good visibility to the project. The fourth goal, which is a consequence of the other three, is in accordance with my concerns regarding the strengthening of the Assyriological research in Brazil; in my particular case, with its relation with the history of knowledge in the Near Eastern Antiquity. (AU)

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