The History of Mathematics

Mesopotamian Numbers and Mathematics

Who were the Akkadians?

The region of Mesopotamia was once the center of the Sumerian civilization, a culture that flourished before 3500 B.C.E. Not only did the Sumerians have a counting and writing system, but they were also progressive, supporting irrigation systems, a legal system, and even a crude postal service. By about 2300 B.C.E., the Akkadians invaded the area, emerging as the dominant culture. As most conquerors do, they imposed their own language on the area and even used the Sumerians’ cuneiform system to spread their language and traditions to the conquered culture.

Although the Akkadians brought a more or less advanced culture into the mix, they were responsible for inventing the abacus, an ancient counting tool. By 2150 B.C.E., the Sumerians had had enough: They revolted against Akkadian rule, and overthrew their conquerers.

However, the Sumerians did not maintain their independence for long. By 2000 B.C.E., their empire collapsed, undermined by attacks from the west by Amorites and from the east by Elamites. As the Sumerians disappeared, they were replaced by the Assyro-Babylonians, who eventually established their capital at Babylon.


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