Sexigesimal system - Babylonian number system (60)

 

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Summerians and Babylonians were the first people to develop the written number system - at least that is what we now think as there aren't any older surviving documents which contain what we might consider to be numbers.

They used stylus made of reed to write cuneiform symbols onto a wet clay tablet, which later they baked if they wished to preserve what was written on it.

The number of elementary symbols is very small - there are only few lines put together in different ways - but their combinations give extremely large number of possibilities.

Apart from using this type of writing, their number system was also different to ours. We have a number system with a base 10, while Babylonians used a number system with a base 60. Although this may sound difficult to you, we actually still maintain that system in our measurement of time. Babylonians were the first people to record the calendar, with the day divided into 24 hours (as we do), each hour into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 seconds.

 

   

See some other pages on Babylonian Maths:

Babylonian Mathematics main page

Plimpton 322 - the most famous tablet in the world

 

Click on the number man for a downloadable sheet of Babylonian numerals

 

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