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tally




To count or keep score. In the past this was often done by making marks on a stick; the word comes from the Latin talea meaning "one who cuts," which is also the root of "tailor." The oldest known tally stick is thought to be the Lebombo bone dating back about 37,000 years. Until around 1828 British tax records were kept on wooden tally sticks. When the system was finally abandoned the government was left with a mountain of wood which, in 1834, it decided to dispose of by having a giant bonfire. So successful was that blaze that it also burned down the parliament buildings. What Guy Fawkes had failed to do with dynamite, the Exchequer did with tally sticks!


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   • HISTORY OF MATHEMATICS