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Counting Sheep the Traditional Way

Date: 10/13/2003 at 13:50:42
From: Brittany
Subject: Old English math

I'm doing an ancient civilizations project in algebra and I have to do
mine on the Old English civilization (from about 400 to 1200 AD), but
I'm having trouble finding information.


Date: 10/13/2003 at 14:50:08
From: Doctor Edwin
Subject: Re: Old English math

Hi, Brittany.

I did a few Google searches for things like "ancient British" and 
"numeral" and things like that. One thing that I found,

  Weights, Money and Other Measures Used by Our Ancestors
    http://www.rootsweb.com/~wiilbig/RevFiles/v3n2r2.htm 

is a reference to a book that sounds like it would have what you need:

  Weights, Money and Other Measures Used by Our Ancestors 
  by Colin R. Chapman. 
  Published by Genealogical Publishing Company, 
  1001 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore MD 21202. 1995. 
  USA edition 1996.

Apparently, the ancient British counting system was still in use for 
counting sheep even up until about the Second World War. Take a look 
at this website:

  Counting Sheep: The Traditional Way
    http://www.slaidburn.org.uk/counting_sheep.htm 

It has tables that show the sheep counting system that was in use in 
various parts of Britain.

It seems from the text that the British system didn't have any numbers 
above 20 (1 score). Instead, they would count scores, so 100 would be 
5 score. Also, the counting system varies a LOT among different 
regions. And (in some regions more than others), the counting is 
somewhat based on 5. For an extreme example, in Weardale, 1 is "yan", 
5 is "tic", 6 is "yanatic", 10 is "bub", 11 is "yanabub", and 16 is 
"yanaticabub" and so on.

Definitely look at the charts. I'm really glad you asked this
question, because I had never heard of this.  I think it's fascinating 
that this method of counting survived for many hundreds of years, and 
only for counting sheep.

- Doctor Edwin, The Math Forum
  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ 
Associated Topics:
Elementary Math History/Biography
High School History/Biography
Middle School History/Biography

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