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(Cambridge, August 23, 2010) Sometime in the early 17th century in Northern Peru, a Spaniard jotted down some notes on the back of a letter. Four hundred years later, archaeologists dug up and studied the paper, revealing the first traces of a lost language.
“It’s a little piece of paper with a big story to tell,” says Dr. Jeffrey Quilter, who has conducted investigations in Peru for more than three decades, and is director of the archaeological project at Magdalena de Cao Viejo in the El Brujo Archaeological Complex, where the paper was excavated in 2008. Quilter explains this simple list offers “a glimpse of the peoples of ancient and early colonial Peru who spoke a language lost to us until this discovery.”
Originally posted by lostinspace
reply to post by Byrd
I see the word for "hundreds" is close to the zuni word for "enemy", but without an a. This is a word the zuni called the Navajo Indians.
Originally posted by Blackmarketeer
reply to post by Byrd
Still, the notion this language's numbering was based on something akin to the decimal system shows their ability to think logically, and puts them ahead of the Romans on that front, as anyone who has ever tried to do math with Roman numerals will attest.
Both the format and the contents of the brief list suggest that the author may have been recording numbers with the aim of understanding the numerical system in question, possibly during or shortly after an interview with a native informant. This is hard to determine, of course, but it suggests that the recorder understood that by asking for the numbers in question, the rules of the number system could be determined. The choice of numbers indicates that the interviewer was numerate and educated because the numbers queried for native-language equivalents above ten provided keys to understanding the system's combinatory rules.
You also find out that the spelling of the word (how the one writing it down) depends on what language the writer speaks. In other words, a French speaking person would have heard a slightly different set of letters, and a Chinese speaking person would have heard yet another set of letters. English speakers would have written it a third way
Actually, the Romans had the same base-ten system as these folks did (as did the Egyptians and a lot of other folks. It was just that their notation (as with the Egyptians) is rather clumsy. That didn't prevent them from dealing with geometrical calculations although it's rather a hindrance for us.