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.