Indigenous knowledge in the history of number

Kay Owens, Patricia Paraide

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

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Archaeology, linguistic archaeology, and written records of first contact with Indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea and Oceania provided data for the thesis of the longevity and development of counting systems in this region. However, oral accounts and histories have also provided rich Indigenous knowledge about number, size and measurement. Glen Lean searched the written records and asked thousands of students and teachers from two-thirds of the 850 languages of Papua New Guinea and this is supplemented by recent studies that take account of cultural knowledge. A sense of magnitude and counting systems are likely to date back 30 thousand years with Oceanic languages beginning around 5 thousand years ago. Differences in the counting systems can be grouped into a range of categories and diversity occurs as a result of cultural practices, values, and relationships within and across other language groups. This paper presents the complexity of the counting systems.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event6th International Congress on Ethnomathematics - University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia
Duration: 08 Jul 201813 Jul 2018 (conference website) (conference program)


Conference6th International Congress on Ethnomathematics
Internet address


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