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Sacred Number

48 49 Systems of numerals that use position or place value to signify the magnitude of a given digit are few and far between. The earliest such system is Sumerian cuneiform. Stylus impressions in clay are repeated to make glyps for 1 to 59, with place value denoting larger numbers. Later the Babylonians introduced an empty place marker effectively making the first zero. The Maya independently discovered place value and the use of zero. Their base 20 system is usually written vertically. Digits in the 3rd place are not 20 but 18 times those in the second, probably because of the calendrical use of 360. Far Eastern rod numerals alternate two versions of nine glyphs. The small Indian zero was adopted in the 18th century. The ancient systems below all use small sets of characters to represent a limited range of numbers. Those from the ancient Mediterranean repeat marks like a tally stick to make some numbers while the Chinese system combines the characters for one to nine with characters meaning 10, 100, 1,000 and 10,000. In all these systems a number such as 57 would be written as the characters or characters for 50 followed by the character for 7 with no use of place value. early nuMBer sysTeMs PlaCe value nuMBer sysTeMs
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