Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ancient Tally Stick (c. 35.000 B.C.E)

Counting makes its debut in Swaziland.

Tally sticks, or tallies batons of bone, ivory, wood, or stone into which notches are made as a mean of recoding numbers or even messages, The archeological and historical records are rich in tallies, with the Lembombo bone as the earliest example. Found in a cave in the Lembombo Mountains in Swaziland and made form a baboon's fibula, it dated back to 35,000 B.C.E. Its markings suggest that it is a lunar phase counter, indicating an appreciation of math far beyond simple counting.

Tally sticks became the primary accounting tool of medieval Europe, which was largely illiterate. During the 1100s King Henry I of England established the Exchequer to be responsible for the collection and management fo revenues. To keep track of taxds owned and paid, split tally sticks were employed. Usually made of squared hazel wood, notches were made the thickness of the palm of the hand to represent 1000 [pound], the thickness of a thumb for 100 [pound], a little finger for 10[pound], a swollen barley gran for 1[pound], and a thin score mark for a shilling. The notches would span the stick's width, which subsequently would be split so that both halves had the same markings, to avoid forgeries. The halves differed in length; the longer half, or stock, was for the person making the payment, hence "stockholder" and the shorter half, or foil, for the recipient of the money or goods.