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Mathematical Treasure: Cuneiform Tablet Depicting Heptagon

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

A Babylonian Geometry problem of the surface of a heptagon divided into triangles, on a clay tablet belonging to a school for scribes in Susa at the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE. Note the fact that the scribe-teacher divided the polygon into seven isoscles triangles. For demonstration purposes, one such triangle would have been sufficient but for pedagogical reasons and a better understanding of the principle being used, a total covering of seven triangles is shown.

Babylonian cuneiform tablet with heptagon, owned by the Louvre.

This 2016 image by internet user Rama shows object SB 13088 from the collections of the Louvre. It is available for use from Wikimedia Commons via a CC BY-SA 2.0 FR license.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Cuneiform Tablet Depicting Heptagon," Convergence (July 2021)