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Home > Publications > Published books > Published Books of researchers of SPHERE: 2015-... > Cultures of Computation and Quantification in the Ancient World.

Cultures of Computation and Quantification in the Ancient World.

Numbers, Measurements, and Operations in Documents from Mesopotamia, China and South Asia

Editors: Karine Chemla, Agathe Keller, Christine Proust

“Offers an approach to the diversity of scientific cultures based on case studies dealing with mathematical sources”.
“Links the history of mathematics to the history of ancient worlds.”
”Sheds a new light on the history of place-value systems.”
Part of the book series: Why the Sciences of the Ancient World Matter (WSAWM, volume 6)

“This book sheds light on the variety of mathematical cultures in general. To do so, it concentrates on cultures of computation and quantification in the ancient world, mainly in ancient China, South Asia, and the Ancient Near East and offers case studies focused on numbers, quantities, and operations, in particular in relation to mathematics as well as administrative and economic activities.
The various chapters focus on the different ways and contexts of shaping numbers and quantities, and on the procedures applied to them. The book places special emphasis on the processes of emergence of place-value number systems, evidenced in the three geographical areas under study All these features yield essential elements that will enable historians of mathematics to further capture the diversity of computation practices in their contexts, whereas previous historical approaches have tended to emphasize elements that displayed uniformity within “civilizational” blocks. The book includes editions and translations of texts, some of them published here for the first time, maps, and conventions for editions of ancient texts. It thereby offers primary sources and methodological tools for teaching and learning.
The volume is aimed at historians and philosophers of science and mathematics, historians of the ancient worlds, historians of economics, sinologists, indologists, assyriologists, as well as undergraduate, graduate students and teachers in mathematics, the history and philosophy of science and mathematics, and in the history of ancient worlds”.

:: Springer Cham, collection ”Why the Sciences of the Ancient World Matter”

:: 2 January 2023, pages : X, 765 (284 b/w illustrations, 48 illustrations in color)

:: DOI :

:: Hardcover ISBN978-3-030-98360-4, Softcover ISBN978-3-030-98363-5, eBook ISBN978-3-030-98361-1Published: 01 January 2023 ; Series ISSN 2662-9933, Series E-ISSN 2662-9941

:: Topics History of Science, Epistemology, History of Mathematical Sciences, Asian History, History of South Asia


  • Pages i-x

Part I: Shaping Quantities and Relating them to Numbers

Part II: Interpreting Numbers and Quantities in Texts

PartIII: Working with Operations and Algorithms

Part IV: Different Cultures of Computation and Quantification

  • Annex A : conventions, p. 731
  • Annex B : Maps, p. 743
  • Index, p.747

Keywords: History of Mathematical Cultures – History of Administrative and Economic Practices – History and Philosophy of Number – Cultures of Computation – Operations and Algorithm