May 9, 2006

By the Numbers

Over the last several days, Dave at Balashon has been running a series on numbers in Hebrew. I commented on his Shesh (6) post that the number six in Egyptian was śiśw (also śrśw). I mentioned here that there is an Egyptian/Akkadian bilingual vocabulary text (EA 368) from Amarna that Shlomo Izre'el republishes in his The Amarna Scholarly Tablets. This text has the Egyptian ordinal numbers 2-10. I thought it would be abnormal enough to tabulate the numbers as given in this text along with the cardinal numbers in Hieroglyphic Egyptian, Akkadian, Ugaritic and Hebrew. Why? Just for fun.

A couple of notes before the tabulation: EA 368 uses the numbers in an Egyptian expression X šn‛, which the badly broken Akkadian column apparently renders "X shekels [of silver?]." For this reason, I have chosen to use the feminine absolute state for the Akkadian cardinals. The masculine absolute of 7 is unknown. Remember, Akkadian only rarely spelled out the numbers. For the sake of comparison, I give the Ugaritic masculine with the feminine ending in parenthesis and the Hebrew masculine.

# Tablet EA 368 Hieroglyphic
Akkadian Ugaritic Hebrew
2 ši-na-ah-wu4 šnw šitta tn (tt) שׁנים
3 ha-am-tu4 hmt šalašat tlt(t) שׁלשׁה
4 pi?-du?-ú fdw erbet arb‛(t) ארבעה
5 tí-ú diw hamišat h חמשׁה
6 ša?-ú śiśw or śrśw šeššet tt(t) שׁשׁה
7 šap-ha śfh sebet šb‛(t) שׁבעה

8 ha-ma-an hmn samanat tmn שׁמנה
9 pi-ši-iţ




10 mu-ţu md


‛šr(t) עשׂרה

Note that the Akkadian masculine absolute for 2 is šena/šina. The only numbers where I see commonality between the Semitic versions and the Egyptian are 2, 6 and 7 although there might be a relationship among the various 8s and 9s. I'm sure that this has been studied at some length. For example, I know that Albright explained the loss of the second š in EA 368's Egyptian 6 in 1926 and I know that ši-na-ah-wu4 (2) is likely a dual form. But I haven't done a literature search. If anyone knows of literature on the relationship between the Egyptian and Semitic 2, 6, or 7 or for that manner 8 and 9, I'd like to hear from you. Of course, it is likely that whatever relationship there might be is lost in the antiquity of the Hamo-Semitic origins of both language families.


Albright, William Foxwell, "The New Cuneiform Vocabulary of Egyptian Words, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 12, 1926, 186

Gardener, Alan, Egyptian Grammar, Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs, 3rd edition, London: Oxford University Press, 1966 (From which I got the Egyptian numbers)

Gordon, (1965): Gordon, Cyrus, Ugaritic Textbook, Analecta Orientallia, 38, Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1965 (From which I supplemented my memory of the Ugaritic numbers)

Izre'el, Shlomo, The Amarna Scholarly Tablets, Cuneiform Monograms 9, Groningen: STYX Publishers, 1997

von Soden, Wolfram, Grundriss der Akkadischen Grammatik, Analecta Orientalia 47, Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1969 (From which I took the Akkadian cardinals)

Posted by Duane Smith at May 9, 2006 7:32 PM | Read more on Archaeology |

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I really enjoyed this post. I have dabbled a bit in Babylonian math texts. They had a rudimentary understanding of calculus and other advanced math topics. Their understanding of geometry was very good. If you ever get a chance to do a post on Babylonian calculus I would very much like to see it. I do have a bit of bibliography if you are interested. Reply to me off post and I will send it to you.


Posted by: Joe Cathey at May 10, 2006 6:31 AM

Thanks for the link.

And I must say that your post comes across as much more professional than mine! Tables, references, etc...

Posted by: Dave at May 10, 2006 7:03 AM

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.
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