How Was Calculation Done During Ancient Times?

Calculations have been an essential part of human life since ancient times. From counting livestock to measuring land, humans have always needed to perform calculations for various purposes.

But how did people in ancient times do calculations without the aid of modern technology? In this article, we will explore the different methods used for calculation during ancient times.

Ancient Methods of Calculation

Before the invention of calculators and computers, people relied on their mental abilities and physical tools to perform calculations. The following are some of the methods used by ancient civilizations for calculation:


The abacus is one of the oldest and most widely used tools for arithmetic calculations. It consists of a wooden frame with rows of beads or stones that can be moved back and forth between two parallel wires. Each row represents a different place value, such as units, tens, hundreds, etc.

Ancient civilizations like the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Indians used variations of the abacus for their calculations. The abacus made it easier to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division by visually representing numbers.


Another method used by ancient civilizations was finger counting. This method involved using fingers to represent numbers. For example, one finger represented one unit and ten fingers represented ten units.

The use of fingers was prevalent among many cultures like the Mayans who counted in base 20 using their fingers and toes.


Numerals are symbols or figures that represent numbers. Ancient civilizations developed their numeral systems based on their cultural beliefs and needs.

One such numeral system is the Roman numerals that were widely used in Europe until the 14th century. They consist of letters such as I (1), V (5), X (10), L (50), C (100), D (500), M (1000) that represent different values.

The Hindu-Arabic numeral system, which is the basis of the modern numeral system, originated in India around the 6th century. It consists of digits like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 with a positional value system where the position of each digit determines its value.


In conclusion, ancient civilizations used various methods for calculation that relied on their mental abilities and physical tools like abacus, fingers and numerals. These methods were effective in performing arithmetic calculations but were limited in their ability to handle complex calculations.

However, these ancient methods laid the foundation for modern mathematics and helped us develop more advanced techniques for calculation. Today we have powerful computers and calculators that can perform calculations quickly and accurately. But it’s important to remember our roots and appreciate the ingenuity of our ancestors in developing these ancient methods of calculation.