logo Sphere
Logo Université Paris-Diderot Logo Université Paris1-Panthéon-Sorbonne


On this website

On the whole CNRS Web

Home > Archives > Previous years: Seminars > Seminars 2018-2019: archives > Reading group of cuneiform mathematical texts 2018–2019

Axis History and Philosophy of Mathematics

Reading group of cuneiform mathematical texts 2018–2019

Coordinators: Adeline Reynaud, (University Paris Diderot, SPHERE)


We are happy to announce the creation of a reading group devoted to mathematical cuneiform texts, that will meet once a month in Université Paris Diderot. Our aim is to read together selected mathematical documents from the Ancient Near East written in cuneiform script, on the basis of their photographs and/or cuneiforme copies and/or previous transcriptions, as well as to discuss their mathematical content and terminology.
To current year and archives

The sessions will take place from 2pm to 5pm in room 324 of the building Olympe Gouges*.

Date Theme Organization
T 30/08/2018 The problem of silver rings, BM 85196 #18 P. Chaigneau
T 18/10/2018
& T 08/11/2018
A series of illustrated math problems from the MS 3052 tablet (1/3) & (2/3) A. Reynaud
This session and the one from November 8th will be devoted to reading several problems of the Palaeo-Babylonian Mathematical Tablet MS 3052, which have in common to deal with an earthen wall and to be illustrated by a figure representing a section of this wall. The study of these problems will allow us in particular to return to the terminology used for the description of three-dimensional mathematical objects (already discussed in a previous session) and to look at one of the rare attestations of representation of these objects by diagrams in cuneiform sources.
T 06/12/2018
& T 31/01/2019
Mathematical texts using a large proportion
of Sumerograms
(1/2) & (2/2)
C. Proust
The December 6 session will be devoted to reading CBS 12648, a early Paleo-Babylonian text from Nippur (photo This is probably the oldest procedural text known, and one of the few examples of mathematical text written in Sumerian. It has only recently been understood through a translation by Joran Friberg (2001, Bricks and Mud in Metro Mathematical Cuneiform Texts, p. 149). This text will allow us to address issues related to the Sumerian terminology and syntax used in mathematical texts, and to peculiarities of southern mathematical cultures in the early days of the Paleo-Babylonian era.
The January 31st reading will focus on the MS 3971 tablet (a tablet kept in the Schøyen collection, unknown origin, Paleo-Babylonian era), mainly on problems 2 and 4 of this tablet. Other issues, including Problem 3, will also be discussed in a general discussion of the text as a whole. The tablet was published by Jöran Friberg in 2007 in A Remarkable Collection of Babylonian Mathematical Texts. The photo is available on the CDLI (
14/02/2019 A series of illustrated math problems for the MS 3052 tablet (3/3) A. Reynaud
21/03/2019 Some mathematical texts of Sippar P. Chaigneau
We are going to look at the tablet BM 96954+ recently (re-)published by Friberg, an interesting late Old-Babylonian recombination text dealing with volume computation. We will focus on four of the best preserved sections, numbered by Friberg 1g, 1j, 4a and 4b. The session will start by reading the last two, which are easier, before we dive with the other two into the world of mesopotamian computations dealing with pyramids. [extract A] [extract B]
!!! 9.30am–12.30am !!!
Paleo-Babylonian Mathematical Exercises
on Market Price Changes
(1/2) & (2/2)
L. Quillien
Mathematical and astronomical texts of the Hellenistic period (1/2) & (2/2) G. Toucas

*Building Olympe de Gouges, University Paris Diderot, 8 place Paul Ricœur, 75013 - Paris;
Map. Calculate your itinerary with the public transport website RATP

Metro: lines 14 and RER C, stop: Bibliothèque François Mitterrand or line 6, stop: Quai de la gare. Bus: 62 and 89 (stop: Bibliothèque rue Mann), 325 (stop: Watt), 64 (stop: Tolbiac-Bibliothèque François Mitterrand)

Top of page