Suggested Reading

Update: March, 2018: Numbers on Clay

"Numbers on Clay" is now available for download in PDF. Written by Alexander Jones, this pamphlet was given to individuals who visited the exhibition when it was on view in ISAW's galleries. It introduces clay tablets and cuneiform writing and numerals, as well as the place-value system used by Mesopotamian scribes. It also provides translations for a number of the tablets that appeared in the exhibition.

The following bibliography may be downloaded in the following formats: PDF, Microsoft Word.


  • Otto Neugebauer, The Exact Sciences in Antiquity. 2nd edition. Providence, Brown University Press, 1957. Reprinted by Dover Publications, 1969.
  • Eleanor Robson, Mathematics in Ancient Iraq: A Social History. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2008.
  • Victor J. Katz, editor, The Mathematics of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, and Islam: A Sourcebook. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2007.
  • C. B. F. Walker, Cuneiform. Reading the Past 3. Berkeley, University of California Press/British Museum, 1987.

Numerals, metrology, and calculations

  • Asger Aaboe, Episodes from the Early History of Mathematics. Washington D.C., Mathematical Association of America, 1964.
  • Marvin Powell, "The Antecedents of Old Babylonian Place Notation and the Early History of Babylonian Mathematics." Historia Mathematica 3, 1976, 417-439.
  • Robert M. Whiting, "More Evidence for Sexagesimal Calculations in the Third Millennium B.C." Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 74, 1984, 59-66.
  • Jöran Friberg, "On the Alleged Counting with Sexagesimal Place Value Numbers in Mathematical Cuneiform Texts from the Third Millennium BC." Cuneiform Digital Library Journal 2005:2. [ available online from the Cuneiform Digital Library Journal ]
  • Christine Proust, "Quantifier et calculer: usages des nombres à Nippur." Revue d'Histoire des Mathématiques 14.2, 2008, 143-209.
  • Christine Proust, "Mesopotamian metrological lists and tables: Forgotten sources," in F. Bretelle-Establet et al., eds., Looking at it from Asia: The Processes that Shaped the Sources of History of Science. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 265. New York, Springer, 2010. 245-276.

Scribal training

  • Karen Rhea Nemet-Nejat, "Systems for Learning Mathematics in Mesopotamian Scribal Schools." Journal of Near Eastern Studies 54, 1995, 241-260.
  • Niek Velduis, Elementary Education at Nippur: The Lists of Trees and Wooden Objects. Doctoral dissertation, University of Groningen. [ available online from the University of Groningen ]
  • Eleanor Robson, "The Tablet House: A Scribal School in Old Babylonian Nippur." Revue d'Assyriologie 95, 2001, 39-67.

Problem texts and advanced mathematics

  • Jens Høyrup, Lengths, Widths, Surfaces: A Portrait of Old Babylonian Algebra and its Kin. Studies and Sources in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences. New York, Springer, 2002.
  • Jöran Friberg, Unexpected Links between Egyptian and Babylonian Mathematics. Singapore, World Scientific, 2005.
  • David Fowler and Eleanor Robson, "Square Root Approximations in Old Babylonian Mathematics: YBC 7289 in Context." Historia Mathematica 25, 1998, 366-378. [ available online from Cambridge University ]
  • D. J. de Solla Price, "The Babylonian 'Pythagorean Triangle' Tablet." Centaurus 10, 1964, 219-231.
  • Jöran Friberg, "Methods and Traditions of Babylonian Mathematics: Plimpton 322, Pythagorean Triples and the Babylonian Triangle Parameter Equations." Historia Mathematica 8, 1981, 277-318
  • Eleanor Robson, "Neither Sherlock Holmes nor Babylon: A Reassessment of Plimpton 322." Historia Mathematica 28, 2001, 167-206. [ available online from Cambridge University ]
  • John P. Britton, Christine Proust, and Steve Shnider, "Plimpton 322: A Review and a Different Perspective." (Forthcoming.)

Editions of mathematical tablets

  • H. V. Hilprecht, Mathematical, Metrological and Chronological Tablets from the Temple Library of Nippur. The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Series A: Cuneiform Texts, vol. 20 part 1. Philadelphia, Department of Archaeology, University of Pennsylvania, 1906. [ available online from the Internet Archive ]
  • Otto Neugebauer, Mathematische Keilschrift-Texte. 3 vols. Berlin, Springer, 1935-1937. Reprinted by Springer, 1973.
  • François Thureau-Dangin, Textes mathématiques babyloniens. Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1938.
  • Otto Neugebauer and Abraham J. Sachs, Mathematical Cuneiform Texts. American Oriental Series 29. New Haven, American Oriental Society, 1945. [ available online from Google books ]
  • E. M. Bruins and M. Rutten, Textes mathématiques de Suse. Paris, P. Geuthner, 1961.
  • Otto Neugebauer and Abraham J. Sachs, "Mathematical and Metrological Texts." Journal of Cuneiform Studies 36, 1984, 243-251.
  • Eleanor Robson, Mesopotamian Mathematics, 2100-1600 BC: Technical Constants in Bureaucracy and Education. Oxford editions of cuneiform texts 14. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1999.
  • Eleanor Robson, "Mathematical Cuneiform Tablets in Philadelphia, Part I: Problems and Calculations." SCIAMVS 1, 2000, 11-48. [ available online from Cambridge University ]
  • Eleanor Robson, "Mathematical Cuneiform Tablets in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford." SCIAMVS 5, 2004, 3-65. [ available online from Cambridge University ]
  • Jöran Friberg, A Remarkable Collection of Babylonian Mathematical Texts: Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection. Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and the Physical Sciences. New York, Springer, 2007.
  • Christine Proust with Veysel Donbaz, Asuman Dönmez, and Antoine Cavigneaux, Tablettes mathématiques de Nippur.1er partie:Reconstitution du cursus scolaire. 2me partie: Édition des tablettes conservées au Musée Archéologique d’Istanbul, avec la collaboration de Veysel Donbaz et de Asuman Dönmez, translittération des textes lexicaux et littéraires par Antoine Cavigneaux. Varia Anatolica 18. Paris, Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes Georges-Dumezil, 2007.
  • Christine Proust with Manfred Krebernik and Joachim Oelsner, Tablettes mathématiques de la collection Hilprecht. Texte und Materialen der Hilprecht Collection 8. Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2008.