Babylonian numeration system

The Babylonian numeration system was developed between 3000 and 2000 BCE.

It uses only two numerals or symbols, a one and a ten to represent numbers and they looked this these

1 and 10 in babylonian system
To represent numbers from 2 to 59, the system was simply additive

Example #1:

5 is written as shown:

5 in babylonian system
12 is written as shown:

12 in babylonian system
Notice how the ones, in this case two ones are shown on the right just like the Hindu-Arabic numeration system

45 is written as shown:

45 in babylonian system
For number bigger than 59, the Babylonian used a place value system with a base of 60

62 is written as shown:

62 in babylonian system
Notice this time the use of a big space to separate the space value

62 in babylonian
Without the big space, things look like this:

However, what is that number without this big space? Could it be 2 × 60 + 1 or 1× 602 + 1 × 60 + 1 or .....???

The Babylonians introduced the big space after they became aware of this ambiguity.

The number 4871 could be represented as follow: 3600 + 1260 + 11 = 4871

4871 in babylonian system
Even after the big space was introduced to separate place value, the Babylonians still faced a more serious problem?

How would they represent the number 60?

Since there was no zero to put in an empty position, the number 60 would thus have the same representation as the number 1

1 or 60 in babylonian ?
How did they make the difference? All we can say is that the context must have helped them to establish such difference yet the Babylonian numeration system was without a doubt a very ambiguous numeral system

If this had become a major problem, no doubt the Babylonians were smart enough to come up with a working system

Recent Articles

  1. Properties of Congruence

    Nov 09, 18 09:40 AM

    Learn the three properties of congruence. Examples to illustrate which property.

    Read More

New math lessons

Your email is safe with us. We will only use it to inform you about new math lessons.

            Follow me on Pinterest

Recent Lessons

  1. Properties of Congruence

    Nov 09, 18 09:40 AM

    Learn the three properties of congruence. Examples to illustrate which property.

    Read More

  Our Top Pages

Formula for percentage

Compatible numbers

Basic math test

Basic math formulas

Types of angles

Math problem solver

Algebra word problems

Surface area of a cube

Finding the average 

Scale drawings

Tough Algebra Word Problems.

If you can solve these problems with no help, you must be a genius!

Everything you need to prepare for an important exam!

K-12 tests, GED math test, basic math tests, geometry tests, algebra tests. 

Real Life Math Skills

Learn about investing money, budgeting your money, paying taxes, mortgage loans, and even the math involved in playing baseball.


Scientific Notation Quiz

Types of Angles Quiz

Graphing Slope Quiz

Adding and Subtracting Matrices Quiz  

Factoring Trinomials Quiz 

Solving Absolute Value Equations Quiz  

Order of Operations Quiz