How Did People Calculate or Count in the Ancient Times?

Have you ever wondered how people in ancient times calculated or counted without the convenience of modern technology? It might surprise you to know that many civilizations developed their own unique methods for counting and measuring. Here are some fascinating examples:

Counting with Fingers and Toes

One of the earliest ways humans counted was by using their fingers and toes. This method is still used in some cultures today.

For example, in Papua New Guinea, people count up to 27 on one hand by using the spaces between their fingers and the joints on each finger. In ancient Rome, people used a similar method but only counted up to 10 on each hand.

The Abacus

Another early counting tool was the abacus, which originated in ancient China around 200 BCE. The abacus consists of a wooden frame with beads or stones that can be moved back and forth along rods.

Each row represents a different place value (ones, tens, hundreds, etc.) and can be used to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

The Quipu

The quipu is a counting device that originated in ancient Peru around 300 BCE. It consists of strings of different lengths and colors tied to a main cord.

The position and color of each string represented a number or category (such as animals or crops). Quipus were primarily used for record-keeping but could also be used for basic calculations.

The Slide Rule

The slide rule is a calculating device that was widely used from the 17th century until the mid-20th century. It consists of two logarithmic scales that can be moved back and forth against each other to perform multiplication, division, square roots, and other mathematical operations.


These are just a few examples of how people in ancient times calculated or counted. While these methods may seem primitive compared to modern technology, they were highly effective for their time and paved the way for the development of more advanced counting tools and techniques.