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Etruscan numerals: Wikis

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The Etruscan numerals were used by the ancient Etruscans. The system was adapted from the Greek Attic numerals and formed the inspiration for the later Roman numerals.

Etruscan Decimal Symbol *
θu 1 Etruscan Numeral 1.svg
maχ 5 Etruscan Numeral 5.svg
śar 10 Etruscan Numeral 10.svg
muvalχ 50 Etruscan Numeral 50.svg
? 100 Etruscan Numeral 100.svg or C

There is very little surviving evidence of these numerals. Examples are known of the symbols for larger numbers, but it is unknown which symbol represents which number.

Thanks to the numbers written out on the Tuscania dice, there is agreement about the fact that zal, ci, huθ and śa are the numbers up to 6 (besides 1 and 5). The assignment depends on the answer to the question whether the numbers on opposite faces on Etruscan dice add up to seven, like nowadays. Some dice found don't show this proposed pattern.

An interesting aspect of the Etruscan numeral system is that some numbers, as in the Roman system, are represented as partial subtractions. So "17" is not written *semφ-śar as users of the Arabic numerals might reason. We instead find <ci-em zaθrum> — literally, "three away from twenty". The numbers 17, 18 and 19 are all written in this way.

The general consensus

Despite the continuing debate specifically about which of huθ and śa are "four" and "six", the general agreement among Etruscologists nowadays is the following:

Etruscan Decimal
θu 1
zal 2
ci 3
huθ 4
maχ 5
śa 6
semφ 7
cezp 8
nurφ 9
śar 10
*θuśar 11
*zalśar 12
*ciśar 13
huθzar 14
*maχśar 15
*śaśar 16
ciem zaθrum 17
eslem zaθrum 18
θunem zaθrum 19
zaθrum 20
cealχ 30
*huθalχ 40
muvalχ 50
śealχ 60
semφalχ 70
cezpalχ 80
*nurφalχ 90

Recently (2006) S. A. Yatsemirsky (PDF) has presented evidence that zar = śar meant ‘12’ (cf. zal ‘2’ and zaθrum ‘20’) while halχ meant ‘10’. According to his interpretation the attested form huθzar was used for ‘sixteen’, not ‘fourteen’.

The words for 17, 18, and 19 may have influenced Latin duodeviginti (18) and undeviginti (19), literally "two-from-twenty" and "one-from-twenty" (with Etruscan -(n)em apparently meaning "from"). Both these forms of 18 and 19 have disappeared from modern Romance languages.

The numerals seem to show that Etruscan is not an Indo-European language, because of the apparent impossibility in finding viable regular sound change correspondences between the Etruscan numerals and those in Proto-Indo-European.

See also

External links

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