Thursday, November 5, 2020

Ancient history of numbers

As everyone began counting by using their ten fingers, most of the numbering systems that were invented used base 10.

The Mayans, Aztecs, Celt and Basques, looked down at their feet and realised that their toes could be counted like fingers so they chose base 20.

The first signs of the Egyptian hieroglyphic number system date to around 3000 BC. It uses 10 as a radix, thus it is a decimal system. Ancient Egyptians had no intermediate symbols for five, fifty or five hundred. But they had symbols for large numbers such as ten thousand, one hundred thousand, one million and ten million.

There were prosperous cities in Ancient Egypt with markets and -'business houses, and with an established government over all the land. The keeping of the commercial and government records necessitated the use of large numbers. Therefore, the Egyptians made up a set of numerals by which they could express numbers of different values from units up to hundreds of thousands.

The hieroglyphic form uses symbols for powers of ten, relying on repetition for other numbers. As the Egyptians wrote from right to left, the largest power of ten appears to the right of the other numerals.

Around 3000 BC, in the regions of the lower Tigris and Euphrates valleys the Sumerians used 60 as its number base, known as a sexagesimal system. Numerals were written from left to right and they used unique symbols for numbers 1, 10, and 60. Some measurements we still use this system: 60 seconds is a minute, 60 minutes is an hour. Their system is preserved in clay tablets in various excavations.

The Greek number system of around 500 BC. is known as the Ionian number system, was mostly likely inspired by the demotic number system of the Egyptians. It is a decimal number system and comes with two notations, one older, cumbersome and limiting, and a newer one using twenty-seven symbols of the alphabet—which was actually only comprised of twenty-four symbols, so three were borrowed from an older alphabet.

The Romans also number system, but it was a little bit different from the Egyptian type. Roman numerals use a system of addition and subtraction to create numerals.

Around 400 C.E. Maya Indians were doing computations related to their rituals and calendars, and number system was based on the number 20, known as a vigesimal system, with 5 as an intermediate base. While Incas did not have a complicated system of computation. They seem to have been more concerned with the simpler task of record−keeping.

The zero was very important in the development of the Hindu number system, as it allowed for the introduction of a place-value decimal system using only nine other symbols. This made calculations much simpler than any previous system could have provided.

Current number system derives from the Arabic positional system which had its precursor in the Babylonian system.
Ancient history of numbers


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