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Mayan Abacus and Chinese Abacus

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Differences in a Chinese Abacus

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Differences in a Chinese Abacus

While the Mayan abacus is said to be invented in the 10th century, the Chinese abacus suanpan was invented in the 11th century. There is a number of evidence that the suanpan was adopted from the Japanese or the Europeans.


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The Mayan abacus is still a mystery in its occurrence. Other than the relics there is no evidence of any development of the Mayan abacus. On the other hand the suanpan had undergone several changes until 1930 and is also one of the very popular and widely used abacuses.


Unlike the Mayan abacus, the suanpan has 2 beads above a dividing bar called as the beam or the reckoning bar and 5 beads below. This basic structure of suanpan was later developed to do complex calculation and it also included zero and provisions for inserting decimals.


The ease of calculation and the versatility of the suanpan made it quite popular and it spread to other countries where it reformed into various other formats. The structure was then changed from wood to metal boards and rods.


End of the Story

If history can be considered as a story then what would be the end of the story? The end of the story suggests that the Mayan abacus had a very short life and was less popular in the Aztec civilization. This must be due to the very less trade activities that the Aztecs had and it is also a well known fact that they had poor trade relation with other people.


The fact that the Mayan abacus used maze and not any beads shows that the development of such an abacus was crippled and had limited uses. But its similarity with the Chinese abacus and the invention of abacus in China in the 11th century is still a mystery.


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Historians have their own versions and till date nobody could give a convincing answer. But the Mayan abacus is one of the first forms of a beaded and framed abacus, which leaves with a possibility of this method spreading to other parts of the world where it could have just reformatted the abacus to suit their number system and the counting methods. But it is unanswered why the Mayan abacus was not developed further, while the similar Chinese abacus became the most popular abacus.




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