A Mathematical Collection Found in the ‘House of the āšipus’. The Art of Metrology in Achaemenid Uruk

  • Christine ProustEmail author
Part of the Why the Sciences of the Ancient World Matter book series (WSAWM, volume 2)


Most of the mathematical texts from Late Babylonian Uruk were found in the ‘House of the āšipus’, altogether with other scholarly texts, including astronomical, astrological, medical, lexical texts, rituals, prayers and others. This chapter provides a close examination of the content of a set of mathematical tablets discovered in a room of the Achaemenid level of this house. These tablets deal mainly with diverse methods to evaluate surfaces. One of the more striking aspects of these methods is the way in which they confront ancient and new metrological systems. Indeed, the metrological systems for lengths, surface and capacity differ in many respects in Old-Babylonian and Late-Babylonian sources. Mathematical texts from the Achaemenid period echo a cross-fertilization between various metrological cultures, the ones resulting from a long transmission of mathematical knowledge from generations to generations during several centuries, the others developed in Mesopotamia in late periods for administrative or juridical purposes. This contribution analyses how different mathematical and metrological cultures were combined by scholars linked to the milieu of the āšipus of Achaemenid Uruk. The conclusion discusses the reasons of the interest shown by these scholars for the art of evaluating surfaces.



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC Grant Agreement No. 269804. I was helped for transliteration and translation of non-mathematical sections and colophons by Hermann Hunger and I am deeply grateful toward him. The calculations were performed with MesoCalc, the Mesopotamian Calculator developed by Baptiste Mélès ( accessed 05/09/2018).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire SPHERE—UMR 7219CNRS & Université Paris DiderotParisFrance

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