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The Mayan Number System

The Maya were extremely skilled mathematicians and astronomers. To this end, they had their own base 20 number system that worked as follows:

The Basics of the Mayan Number System:
Zero - represented by a shell
One - represented by a dot
Five - represented by a bar

Mayan Numbers

Larger Numbers
For larger numbers (numbers greater than 19) the Maya used vertical place holders instead of the horizontal place holders commonly used today. Additional powers of 20 expanded upwards. So, there was a ones place (1s), a twenties place (20s), a four-hundreds place (400s), etc. For example, in the table below, the far right column shows how you would write the number 5,125: (12x400) + (16x20) + (1x5).

Base 20 Mayan Number System

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