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Elamites Used Decimal System in Calculations


11 June 2004



An Iranian scholar believes Elamites used a decimal system in their bills to reflect the heightened importance of trade at that era.

“Studies on an inscription representing an Elamite bill manifest they were the first people in Iran to use a decimal system in their business transactions. Other inscriptions in pictorial language of pre-Elamite show animals, vessels and other objects standing for fractions and decimal numbers,” said Rogha’eh Behzadi, the author of “Ancient Tribes in Caucasus, Mesopotamia, and the Fertile Crescent”.

She added, “On these tablets, there some designs of circles and the thumb. A small circle is believed to have been used to represent zero while the thumb was a symbol of 1. The pre-Elamites language was read from right to left.”

Elam first came into existence sometime between 3500 and 2500 BC. In around 2000 BC the Elamite dynasty conquered most of southern Mesopotamia.


At its zenith, Elam controlled an empire that stretched from what is now the Baghdad area to the entrance of the Persian Gulf. The Assyrians sacked the Elamite capital, Susa, in 647 BC.


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