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Encyclopedia > Brahmi numerals
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The Brahmi numerals are an indigenous Indian numeral system attested from the 3rd century BCE (somewhat later in the case of most of the tens). They are the direct graphic ancestors of the modern Indic and Hindu-Arabic numerals. However, they were conceptually distinct from these later systems, as they were not used as a positional system with a zero. Rather, there were separate numerals for each of the tens (10, 20, 30, etc.). There were also symbols for 100 and 1000 which were combined in ligatures with the units to signify 200, 300, 2000, 3000, etc. India has produced many numeral systems. ... Hindu-Arabic numerals also known as Arabic Numerals, Hindu numerals, European numerals, and Western numerals are the most common set of symbols used to represent numbers around the world. ... Zero can refer to several things. ... The word ligature can mean more than one thing. ...

The source of the first three numerals seems clear: they are collections of 1, 2, and 3 strokes, like the modern Chinese numerals. However, the other unit numerals appear to be arbitrary symbols in even the oldest inscriptions. It is sometimes supposed that they may also have come from collections of strokes, run together in cursive writing in a way similar to that attested in the development of Egyptian hieratic and demotic numerals, but this is unsupported by any direct evidence. Likewise, the units for the tens are not obviously related to each other or to the units, although 10, 20, 80, 90 appear to be based on a circle. Today, speakers of Chinese use three numeral systems: There is the ubiquitous system of Arabic digits and two ancient Chinese numeral systems. ... Development of hieratic script from hieroglyphs; after Champollion. ... Demotic (disambiguation) The term Demotic can refer to: The Demotic Greek dialect of the Greek language. ...

Brahmi numerals in the first century CE

The sometimes rather striking graphic similarity they have with the hieratic and demotic Egyptian numerals is not good evidence of a historical connection, as many cultures have independently recorded numbers as collections of strokes — witness the Roman numerals, for example. With a similar writing instrument, the cursive forms of such groups of strokes could easily be broadly similar as well. Indian Numerals 100AD File links The following pages link to this file: Arabic numerals ... The system of Roman numerals is a numeral system originating in ancient Rome, and was adapted from Etruscan numerals. ...

Another possibility is that the numerals were acrophonic, like the Attic numerals, and based on the Kharosthi alphabet. For instance, chatur 4 has a ¥ shape much like the Kharosthi letter ch; panca 5 looks remarkably like Kharosthi p; and so on through shat 6, sapta 7, and nava 9 (Kharosthi sh, s, n). In an acrophonic alphabet the initial (Greek: acro) sound (phonos) of a word gives the name to the whole. ... Attic numerals were used by ancient Greeks, possibly from the 7th century BC. They were also known as Herodianic numerals because they were first described in a 2nd century manuscript by Herodianus. ... The Kharoṣṭhī script, also known as the Gāndhārī script, is an ancient alphabetic script used by the Gandhara culture of historic northwest India to write the Gandhari and Sanskrit languages (the Gandhara kingdom was located along the present-day border between Afghanistan and Pakistan between the Indus River and the...

However, both suggestions are purely speculative at this point, with no evidence to decide between them.

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