The Babylonians used a sexagesimal, or base 60, system for counting, in contrast to the base 10 system we use today. This system became the basis for the way we measure time, with 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour. Babylonian mathematicians understood algebraic concepts, including square roots, cube roots and logarithmic functions, and - unlike the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians - they had a symbol for zero.Continue Reading
We know about the Babylonians' understanding of mathematics today because they left behind many baked clay tablets written in cuneiform that list mathematical principles and equations. One of these tablets contains an approximation of the square root of two to seven significant decimal digits. Another tablet reveals that the Babylonians may have been aware as early as 1800 BC that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides, a mathematical discovery usually attributed to the Greek mathematician Pythagoras centuries later, though this conclusion is controversial.
Other tablets that archaeologists have found contain tables of values for accurately calculating multiplication, division, square roots and cube roots. The Babylonians' mathematical knowledge influenced later mathematicians from other cultures, including the Greeks.Learn more about Mesopotamia