The History of Mathematics

Mesopotamian Numbers and Mathematics

What was the Babylonian numbering system?

The Babylonians were one of the first to use a positional system within their numbering system—the value of a sign depends on the position it occupies in a string of signs. Neither the Sumerians nor the Akkadians used this system. The Babylonians also divided the day into 24 hours, an hour into 60 minutes, and a minute into 60 seconds, a way of telling time that has existed for the past 4,000 years. The way we write hours, minutes, and seconds is as follows: 6h, 20”, 15’; the way the Babylonians wrote the same numbers (as sexagesimal fractions) is: 6 20/60 15/3600.


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