It’s almost impossible to think of a time that there was counting without numbers, but there was a time when written numbers didn’t exist. The earliest counting device was a persons handsand fingers. Then, as bigger numbers (bigger than ten human-fingers could represent) were counted, various natural items like pebbles and twigs were used to help count. Merchants who traded goods such as beads and bead bracelets, not only required a way to count goods they purchased and sold, but also to calculate the price of those goods.
Until numbers were created, counting devices were used to make everyday calculations. The abacus is one of many counting devices made to help count large numbers.
Both the abacus and the counting board were mechanical aids used for counting; they aren’t calculators in a sense of the word we use now. The person using the abacus develops calculations in their head and uses the abacus as a physical aid to keep track of the sums, the carry’s, etc.
The earliest counting boards are lost forever because of the perishable materials used in their construction. However, educated guesses can be made about their construction, based on early writings.
In outdoor shops of those times, the simplest counting board involved drawing lines in the sand with ones finger or with a stylus, and placing pebbles between those lines as place-holders that represented numbers (the spaces between 2 lines would represent the units 10s, 100s, etc.). The more affluent people, could afford little wooden tables having raised borders that were filled with sand. A benefit of these counting boards on tables was that they could be lifted without disturbing the calculation.
With the need for portable devices, wooden boards with grooves carved into the surface were then developed and wooden markers were used as place-holders. The wooden boards then led the way to even more sturdy materials like marble and metal (bronze) used with stone or metal markers.
Is there anything more you would like to learn about beads or bead bracelets? Come to Novobeads.com to check out amazing, American made products that are fully compatible with all major bead bracelet brands!. This article, After Using Beads For Counting, There Was The Abacus is released under a creative commons attribution license.