A single line, for example, represented the number 1. Two strokes represented 2. Nine strokes for the number 9.
Since the Egyptians had not yet invented the "zero" in 3000 BC, representing the number 10 required a new symbol– a sort of upside down horseshoe.
So the number 99, for example, required eighteen different symbols: nine upside down horseshoes for the number 90, and another nine strokes for the number 9.
There was another symbol for 100, another for 1,000, and so forth.
The largest number in ancient Egypt was 1 million. As historian Will Durant wrote,
"The sign for 1,000,000 was a picture of a man striking his hands above his head, as if to express amazement that such a number should exist."
Today the national debt in the Land of the Free is just shy of $20 trillion.
It makes me wonder what symbol the ancient Egyptians would have used to represent such an absurd figure. Hope and change?