Accounting History Numeration in Primitive, Greek, Roman and Modern Times

History of Accounting > Numeration - Primitive, Greek, Roman, Modern

Accounting is an old trade, which began in its roots as the art of numeration, or the method of counting, whether by words or signs or symbols, goes back to the dawn of intelligence among human beings, though it can hardly be said to begin with the moment when one thing is distinguishable from another. How the process of numbering did begin can only be conjectured from the habits of those lower races who are still uncivilized, and from the results reached by comparative philologists in their study of language.

It is probable that methods of indicating small numbers by some sort of signs preceded the giving of names, and that indeed the names given denoted the signs employed. Thus the words for ears, icings, hands have been used by the Chinese, the Tibetans, and the Hottentots respectively to denote two. The Brazilians generally count by the joints of the fingers, and consequently only to three. Every greater number they express by the word for many. The African Bushmen are said to have no names for any numbers beyond two, and among some of the Papuan islanders two is the basis of their numeration; they do not go beyond six, three twos signifying both six and an indefinite number.

It is abundantly evident from the narratives of travellers that the majority of savage races learned to make use of their fingers and toes in helping them to count, and hence the bases of their systems were five or ten or twenty. The Mexicans have a primitive or uncompounded name for twenty, and as we count from ten upwards by the multiples and powers of ten, so they count by the multiples and powers of twenty. For example, they express 100 by a word which means 5 times 20, and 1000 by twice 400 plus 10 times 20. The Peruvians, who employed knotted strings, called quipus, probably the earliest form of abacus, for expressing numbers and retaining them in memory, had a decimal system. With them a single knot signified 10, two single knots 20, a double knot 100, a triple knot 1000, and so on to higher numbers. Among the early Greeks a quinary system seems to have been in use, as may be seen from the verb ire(jLT!-a(eiv, to count by fives, and then generally to count. After the establishment of a decimal system of numeration, a corresponding nomenclature would follow with comparatively little difficulty.

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3 Responses to “Accounting History Numeration in Primitive, Greek, Roman and Modern Times”

  1. Charles Trey says:

    Do you blame other countries for hating the US? We can’t even work together to improve our own place and imagine what we do to other people. Our congress does nil to make the right decisions, it’s all about business. It’s embarrasing that our Government works against us instead of for us.

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  2. Accountant says:

    The US needs to balance the budget, for sure, however we must remember that national debts are not an American problem alone. Many other countries, in Europe for example, are facing similar problems.

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  3. Ada Irish says:

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