Images de page

different countries, would establish the inference that they were held by all as the most learned and civilized people of those times.

It is admitted as proved beyond controversy that the Aryans, the Hindoos, the Chaldees, the Greeks, in fact, every nation regarded as civilized from which we have received our knowledge of numbers, began their system of numeration by counting the fingers of their hands, and named each number accordingly. The Egyptians seem to have formed an exception. Bunsen has showed conclusively that their names for the cardinal numbers had no relation to each other, and the few whose etymon is suspected do not have reference to their notions of the cosmic evolution. It is, however, probable that they also took the five fingers of the hand as starting point for their numeration, since Tu or SB, name of the numerical five, is regarded as an original form of TT or Tot, the "hand."1

It now remains to explain why the Mayas adopted the metre as standard of lineal measures.

That they were acquainted with exact sciences there can be no doubt. They were mathematicians, astronomers, architects, navigators, geographers, etc. As well as the art they possessed the science of navigation, since they knew how to calculate longitudes and latitudes, as proved by the construction of the gnomon discovered by me at Mayapan. They were, therefore, familiar with plane and spherical trigonometry. They had computed the size of the earth, estimated the distance from pole to pole, calculated the length of the meridian. I have already mentioned the fact that in the construction of their sacred buildings they invariably embodied their cosmogonic and religious conceptions, particularly in their

1 Bunsen, Egypt's Place in the Universal History, vol. iv., pp. 105-106.

« PrécédentContinuer »