Abstract: For tens of thousands of years, humans got along perfectly well without numbers as we understand them. Then around 5000 years ago for reasons that remain unclear, people in the ancient Near East began living in cities with monumental architecture, civil and religious bureaucracies, centralized food distribution systems, and long-distance trading networks. It was simply not possible to run such complex societies without some kind of accounting system or knowledge of mathematical principles. This lecture concentrates on the long, and dare I say “tortured” history of Mesopotamian counting systems. The developments in numbers and mathematics will be discussed in their cultural context in an effort to explain why changes happened as they did and their legacy still influencing us today.
Jeanne Nijhowne holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology with a specialty in the archaeology of the ancient Near East. She has worked on archaeological excavations in Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Syria ranging in time from the 8th millennium B.C. to the 4th century A.D. She currently works as the Graduate Program Assistant in the Department of Physics and teaches a summer class on Mesopotamian archaeology for the Anthropology Department
Coffee, tea and cookies will be available in G1B31 (across from G1B20) from 3:30 - 3:50 p.m.
Physics Colloquia are held Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. in the JILA Auditorium.