It may come as a surprise to learn that early accounting came into place before we had actual money! The earliest acknowledged forms of accounting started in Ancient Egypt where bookkeepers kept meticulous records of the inventory of goods kept in royal storehouses - accountancy then expanded into Greece, Rome and Mesopotamia along similar trade lines. The accuracy of these commercial records was of prime importance, as there was a severe penalty for mistakes (if they were ever discovered!) For example, when archaeologist Dr. Gunter Dreyer of the German Institute of Archaeology was excavating the Egyptian tomb of King Scorpion I, he discovered 5,300-year-old bone labels inscribed with inventory marks and attached to bags of oil and linen in the cemeteries of Abydos.
Describing inventory owners, amounts, and suppliers, these labels of antiquity are considered to be the rudimentary origins of the counting systems that would eventually develop into the sophisticated accounting methods more familiar today.
It’s been hypothesized that the motivation for having accounting was the accurate recording of grain, produce and commodity stocks, as once these were measured and recorded, different items could be exchanged and bartered for – either physically, or metaphorically by the exchange of tokens representing the products to be exchanged.
Worth realizing that in ancient Egypt the use of money was not known, as the fiscal receipt and payments of Pharaoh were paid by doing tasks. It was about 7500 B.C. that simple tokens and clay balls of different shapes came to represent some sort of value for farming goods like food, crops etc – but these were more of a representation of a physical item rather than something of specific monetary value like currency subsequently became. Ironic that currency was originally precious metals but has since gone full circle and now is back to being of token value!
From simple rudimentary methods of records, to a sophisticated system that still resembles those used today, if it weren’t for the Ancient Egyptians, we would not have the comprehensive structure of accounting we work with in the modern world of today.
Other ancient cultures also used accountancy methods, including scribes in Mesopotamia who cut records of transactions on clay tablets. Ancient account books from bankers in Greece show that they changed and loaned money and helped people make cash transfers through affiliate banks in other cities. In ancient Rome, government and banking accounts originated in records kept by the heads of prosperous families.
In ancient times, a lot of trading of goods was done by water or land and so systems of account keeping were likely used to keep a track of this. Accountants took records of what was sold and brought into the country. All were recorded on Abacus paper from about 5000 years ago up until the year 4000 B.C. when papyrus paper become more popular in Egypt and was used by accountants to make records. All these voluminous records were kept in depositories or granaries which were akin to warehouses and banks. The accountant back then was also in charge of keep track of taxes being collected from the people and Abacus paper was used to record the wealth of King Hammurabi and tribute payments provide accurate and time-keeping of records.
The formative years of accountancy were diverse and to some extent experimental, with many cultures trying different methods, though it was the Ancient Egyptians who managed to create a system that was both sophisticated and yet easy to understand for the average layman, which is probably why it was the system that won out. An agricultural society for the most part, it was from the fields that accounting saw its first roots, and it continued to blossom from there.
The Ancient Egyptians created a system that perfectly accounted for costs and laid the groundwork for a system that we still use today.
At Green Quarter Consulting - Accounting and Bookkeeping Services for White Rock, South Surrey, Langley and Surrey BC, we are here to help with your current Accounting (even if some seems ancient to you). We can assist with guiding you through your bookkeeping and accounting needs to ensure your Small Business in White Rock or Surrey BC stays ahead of the curve.