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The Social Life of Numbers


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Table of Contents

  • List of Figures and Tables
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Anthropology and the Philosophy of Arithmetic
  • 2. The Cardinal Numbers and Their Social Relations
  • 3. Ordinal Numerals: The Reproduction and Succession of Numbers
  • 4. Yupay: Counting, Recounting, and the Fabric of Numbers
  • 5. Quechua Arithmetic as an Art of Rectification
  • 6. Numbers and Arithmetic in Pre-Hispanic and Colonial Andean Societies
  • 7. Conclusions
  • Appendix: Quechua Number Symbols and Metaphors Notes
  • Bibliography Index

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A path-finding study of the origin, meaning, and significance of numbers and the philosophical principles underlying the practice of arithmetic among Quechua-speaking peoples of the Andes

About the Author

A recipient of both MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, Gary Urton is the Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University. He is the author of numerous books and edited volumes on Andean/Quechua cultures and Inka civilization, including Signs of the Inka Khipu: Binary Coding in the Andean Knotted-String Records.


"This is an extraordinary book. It is easily readable even for the non-mathematically inclined and non-Andeanists. It deals with issues of why one counts, what is counted, and how arithmetic operations are used in social life." Hispanic American Historical Review "This book is of virtuoso quality in ethnographic research and contains important fresh insights in every section, many of them touching whole areas of inquiry that nobody else has even tried to probe... This is a major work by a major ethnographer." Frank Salomon, Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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