The story

Society in Mesopotamia (continued)

Society in Mesopotamia (continued)

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The math

Among the Chaldeans, he made great progress. The necessities of everyday life led to a certain development of mathematics.

The Mesopotamians used a sexagesimal mathematical system (based on the number 60). They knew the results of | multiplications and divisions, square roots and cube roots and high school equations. Mathematicians indicated the steps to follow in these operations by multiplying the examples. They never divulged the formulas of these operations, which would make the repetition of the examples unnecessary. They also divided the circle into 360 degrees, made planks corresponding to the boards of current logarithms, and invented measures of length, surface, and weight capacity;

The medicine

Medical progress has been great (cataloging medicinal plants, for example). Like law and mathematics, medicine was linked to divination. However, medicine was not confused with mere magic. Mesopotamian doctors, whose profession was widely regarded, did not believe that all ills were supernatural in origin, as they used herbal medicines and underwent surgical treatment. Usually the doctor worked with an exorcist to drive out demons, and resorted to soothsayers to diagnose the ills.

The letters

Cuneiform writing engraved on a sculpture of the XXII century BC (Louvre, Paris).

Written language is the result of the human need to ensure communication and the development of technique.

The writing

Cuneiform writing, a great Sumerian achievement, used by Syrians, Hebrews, and Persians, emerged linked to the accounting needs of temples. It was an ideographic writing in which the object represented expressed an idea. The Sumerians - and later the Babylonians and the Assyrians, who spoke Akkadian - made extensive use of cuneiform writing. Later, the priests and scribes began using a conventional writing, which had no relation with the represented object.

Conventions were known to them, those in charge of cultured language, and sought to represent the sounds of human speech, that is, each sign represented a sound. Thus came phonetic writing, which at least in the second millennium BC, was already used in accounting records, magical rituals and religious texts. Henry C Rawlinson deciphered the cuneiform writing. The key to this feat he obtained from the inscriptions of Behistun Rock, on which was engraved a gigantic message 20 meters long and 7 meters high.

The message had been carved in stone by King Darius, and Rawlinson identified three different types of writing (ancient Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian - also called Assyrian or Babylonian). The German Georg Friederich Grotefend and Frenchman Jules Oppent also stood in the Sumerian writing studies.

Literature was poor

Only the Creation Myth and the Guilgamesh Epic stand out - the adventure of love and courage of this demigod hero, whose goal was to know the secret of immortality.


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