© 2020

The Making of a Scribe

Errors, Mistakes and Rounding Numbers in the Old Babylonian Kingdom of Larsa


Part of the Why the Sciences of the Ancient World Matter book series (WSAWM, volume 4)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxii
  2. Robert Middeke-Conlin
    Pages 1-20
  3. Robert Middeke-Conlin
    Pages 21-58
  4. Robert Middeke-Conlin
    Pages 121-138
  5. Robert Middeke-Conlin
    Pages 139-175
  6. Robert Middeke-Conlin
    Pages 177-228
  7. Robert Middeke-Conlin
    Pages 229-248
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 259-487

About this book


This book presents a novel methodology to study economic texts. The author investigates discrepancies in these writings by focusing on errors, mistakes, and rounding numbers. In particular, he looks at the acquisition, use, and development of practical mathematics in an ancient society: The Old Babylonian kingdom of Larsa (beginning of the second millennium BCE Southern Iraq). In so doing, coverage bridges a gap between the sciences and humanities.

Through this work, the reader will gain insight into discrepancies encountered in economic texts in general and rounding numbers in particular. They will learn a new framework to explain error as a form of economic practice. Researchers and students will also become aware of the numerical and metrological basis for calculation in these writings and how the scribes themselves conceptualized value.

This work fills a void in Assyriological studies. It provides a methodology to explore, understand, and exploit statistical data. The anlaysis also fills a void in the history of mathematics by presenting historians of mathematics a method to study practical texts. In addition, the author shows the importance mathematics has as a tool for ancient practitioners to cope with complex economic processes. This serves as a useful case study for modern policy makers into the importance of education in any economy.


Practical Mathematics in Old Babylonian Period SPVN in Economic Texts Middeke-Conlin on Early Scribal Education Practical Mathematics in an Ancient Society Discrepancies Encountered in Rounding Numbers A Methodology to Exploit Statistical Data Method to Study Practical Texts for Historians of Mathematics Assyriological Studies Kingdom of Larsa Numerical and Metrological Basis Second Millennium BCE Error as a Form of Economic Practice

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Berlin Center for the History of KnowledgeMax Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title The Making of a Scribe
  • Book Subtitle Errors, Mistakes and Rounding Numbers in the Old Babylonian Kingdom of Larsa
  • Authors Robert Middeke-Conlin
  • Series Title Why the Sciences of the Ancient World Matter
  • Series Abbreviated Title Why the Sciences of the Ancient World Matter
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-030-35950-8
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-35953-9
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-030-35951-5
  • Series ISSN 2662-9933
  • Series E-ISSN 2662-9941
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XXII, 487
  • Number of Illustrations 135 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of Science
    History of Mathematical Sciences
    Mathematics Education
    Measurement Science and Instrumentation
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