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Carlos Gonçalves

Associate professor
University of São Paulo
Mathematics in Administrative and Economic Practices in Ancient Mesopotamia
01 October 2016 -
30 June 2017
History, philosophy and sociology of science

Carlos Gonçalves is an associate professor at the School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities of the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and a foreign associate researcher at the SPHERE Laboratoire (Paris 7, CNRS). He has also been a research fellow at Exeter University (2003-2005), a visiting researcher at the University of Vienna (2009) and a laureate of the Research in Paris Program (2012). His research focuses on the history of knowledge in the Ancient Near East, specifically mathematical knowledge and the connection between the scholastic milieu and the practical life.

Research interests

History of science and knowledge in Ancient Mesopotamia: mathematical practices; scribal education; literate professionals and their milieu; quantification and mensuration in daily life; state or public administration and its mathematical tools. The history of the ancient Mesopotamian kingdom of Ešnunna: officials and knowledge as prestige and power insignia; strategies of interaction and management.

Mathematics in Administrative and Economic Practices in Ancient Mesopotamia

This project studies mathematical practices in the kingdom of Ešnunna, a power that dominated the region of the river Diyala, northeast from present-day Baghdad, during the first half of the Old Babylonian period (c. 2000-1600 BCE).

The corpus of documents I will examine is constituted by letters from officials at the service of the king, receipts of objects taken into and from an important temple of the region, private legal real-state contracts, loan contracts and school tablets.

The specific goal is to identify and analyse (i) mathematical knowledge – quantification and mensuration mainly – that was put into practice or engendered by such documents; and (ii) how the areas of life to which this knowledge was applied were in part also shaped by such knowledge.

Although set in the ancient context, the present research has a contemporary political motivation too, as metrics, quantification and statistics have been increasingly employed in the control and administration of social and cultural life.

Key publications

Mathematical Tablets from Tell Harmal, Springer, 2015.

« Notas sobre a Recepção da Matemática Mesopotâmica na Historiografia » in EMP, São Paulo, vol. 14, n° 3, 2012, p. 322-335.

« Analytical Thinking in Mesopotamian Mathematics », in Proceedings of the Third International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science, Vienna, Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2008.

« An alternative to the Pythagorean rule ?», in Historia Mathematica, vol. 35/3, 2007, p. 173-189.

Workshop organized by C. Gonçalves (Paris IAS fellow) and C. Proust (SPHERE - U. Paris Diderot)
26 Jun 2017 09:00 -
26 Jun 2017 18:00,
Paris :
Éléments d'histoire de la Mésopotamie ancienne à travers les nombres, les mesures et les calculs
05 Apr 2017 18:30 -
05 Apr 2017 20:00,
Barcelone :
The language of mathematics: the case of cuneiform texts
Talk by C. Gonçalves, Paris IAS fellow
15 Dec 2016 11:30 -
15 Dec 2016 11:45,
Paris :
Histoire des sciences et politique
Talk by C. Gonçalves, Paris IAS fellow
01 Nov 2016 17:00 -
01 Nov 2016 18:30,
Copenhagen :
Mathematical Tablets from Tell Harmal
27 Oct 2016 14:30 -
28 Oct 2016 17:30,
Paris :
Writing histories of ancient mathematics – Reflecting on past practices and opening the future, 18th – 21st centuries
Antiquity (3500 BCE – 476 CE)
North Africa, Middle East