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News Link • Anthropology

An Ancient Polynesian Culture Used A Completely Unique Binary Counting System

•, Andy Kiersz
Binary is generally associated with high technology and modern mathematics.

However, in a new paper published Dec. 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, psychologists Andrea Bender and Sieghard Beller discuss how centuries ago, a Polynesian culture on the small island of Mangareva developed a binary system to facilitate counting and calculations.

Mangareva is located in French Polynesia, about 1,000 miles southeast of Tahiti. Humans settled the island in three main waves — two waves of Polynesian settlement between 500 and 800 CE and between 1150 and 1450 CE, and a third wave after European colonization in the 19th century.

Mangarevan society, like many Polynesian societies, was based around a strict hierarchy of chiefs and peasants. The economy was built around trade, tributes, and feasts — peasants would offer the chief tributes of staple food products, particularly turtles, fish, coconuts, octopuses, and breadfruit, and these goods would be redistributed by the chief at large feasts.


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