Superfluous 2

#583614
Paul Leyland
Participant

Ah, that may explain the final “2” character. It is presumably there to avoid confusion for modern readers.

An ancient writer would have written 9000 as 2-30 (i.e. 2*60+30 = 150) with the final multiplication by 60 being implied. Their mathematicians did have a character for zero but it was only ever used in intermediate positions and never to set the scale. So 9000, 150, 5/2 and 1/24 would all be written 2-30.

(Added in edit)

Incidentally, those of us old enough to know how to use a guessing stick (“slipstick” on the other side of the pond) rarely had any problem with a lack of leading or trailing zeros. The Mesopotamian scribes very occasionally got it wrong, but I doubt that they did so more often than we did.