Multiplication and Estimation

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


Two out of three methods to assess value discussed in Chap.  7 involved multiplication and can be considered estimations. However, neither of these two methods are found in the scribal curriculum, so that this chapter examines multiplication in order to find out why this may be. By exploring revenue rates, equivalency rates and then labor and wage rate calculations, it is found that there is a kind of economization of practice, where an algorithm presented in one text, such as an algorithm used to carry out an interest rate calculation, is adapted to another environment, such as a tax rate or change rate calculation, by means of commentary centering around tables. These made up building blocks of practice just as metrological lists and tables and numeric tables made up building blocks of calculation, so that much of an advanced scribal education may have taken place in professional environments and may have been made up of commentary. These estimations formed a second kind of error, a conceptual error, and the scribes were aware of this kind of error.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

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

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