Mayan Abacus v/s Chinese Abacus

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The History

History is a fascinating subject to be studied and heard as a story. It pleases all the age groups. The history of abacus is quite interesting. It is a wonderful thing that such inventions were the necessities of such a time and even today it's a mystery how the secret of abacus spread all across the globe in the same time frame.

Abacus was found in the Europe and in China, in a way of looking at it is, it was there in the far west to the east. While the history of Chinese abacus is very well known there are few other forms of abacuses which are unknown to the common people. Mayan abacus is one amongst them.

The facts about the Mayan abacus are pure history. Various historians claim that the records of the first abacus could be of the Mayan abacus, as many relics that were earthed from the Mayan civilization sites show the presence of beads strung on rods which have a similar structure of the abacus. Even though there are no clear indications of the presence and usage of such a form of abacus, it is a possibility.

The Mayan Abacus

The unearthed objects and the cave pictures of the Mayan civilization gives some light into the type of numeral system and the counting methods they used. There are some academicians who claim that the beaded structures that were found could be a kind of toy. But the very similarity between the counting systems revert these thoughts.

These relics found in the Mayan civilization are also called as the Aztec abacus or nepohualtzitzin in the ancient times. Even though its construction and the counting method is still a debate, it shows a lot similarity to the Chinese abacus – suanpan.

The Mayan abacus is considered to be built around the 10th century. Its structure could be defined as a group of maize strung on parallel strings or wires on a frame of wood. Some of the relics and the paintings depicts abacus made with an extra separation that divides the counters into 3 above and 4 below the bar.

This separation confirms the vigesimal or the base 20 system that was believed to be present in the Aztec civilization and by the Basques in Europe. This particular study also rules out the belief that it was a toy.

Each of the 3 counters above the bar represented 5. And each of the 4 counters below the bar represented 1. This gives a possibility that a total of 19 could be represented in a column.