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date: 29 November 2022

arithmetical tableslocked

arithmetical tableslocked

  • Giuseppina Azzarello


Greek arithmetical tables are systematic series of calculations written on papyrus and other light materials such as potsherds, wooden and wax tablets, and paper. About 150 items stemming from Egypt and covering a wide chronological range (4th century bce–13th century ce) have been published. Calculations are normally written in columns and separated by vertical and horizontal lines. They consist of addition, multiplication, squares and division, which are expressed in form of fractions (4: 2 = 2 is expressed as ½ of 4 = 2), and their results are given as the addition of juxtaposed unit fractions, a feature originating in Egyptian mathematics. Every kind of operation presents different patterns and features which can be of help in determining chronology and context. It is particularly challenging to establish the context of the tables, as they can belong to reference books used by professional accountants or be school texts. Material, handwriting, spelling, and the presence of other inscriptions on the same item, such as drawings, personal names, or even school exercises, can shed light on this point.


  • Science, Technology, and Medicine

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