Download The Name of the Number by Michael Deakin PDF

By Michael Deakin

Appears on the historical past and anthropology of the expression of numbers during the a while and throughout varied cultures. It bargains with the several ways in which quantity illustration has been established, the heritage and prehistory of quantity strategies, and the evolution of numerical illustration (in be aware and symbol). those subject matters are explored in the course of the quite a few expressions of number-concepts in several cultures elsewhere and occasions.

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When we count, we set up such a correspondence between the objects being counted and the standard numerals: one, two, three, and so on. Taken for granted also is the implied one-to-one correspondence between both these sets and the set of standard number symbols: 1, 2, 3, and so on. There is now a plausible theory as to how all this began. As the societies of the Middle East developed from hunter-gatherer bands into settled agricultural communities, the need arose for some sort of bureaucracy in order to keep track of grain and other commodities stored in shared facilities.

For example, at another Iraqi site, Uruk, it is possible to follow this evolution over time as the site was occupied for many centuries. The use of actual tokens was gradually supplanted by two-dimensional representations of these same tokens, together with ‘arbitrary signs for numerals, such as a small cone representation for the number one, a circular impression for the number 10 and a larger cone-shaped impression 31 32 THE NAME OF THE NUMBER for the number 60’. These signs were pressed into clay tablets, which were later baked to ensure durability.

There are two partial exceptions to this rule. It is said, and said often, that the ancient Babylonians used a base sixty system, and the Mayans used a base twenty system. Neither statement is precisely accurate, although there is, nonetheless, some truth in both of them. First consider the Babylonian system, which was written in a script called cuneiform. In order to have a base sixty system in the positional notation that we understand, there would need to be sixty different arbitrary symbols (‘digits’), and this is far too many for comfort.

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