In recent weeks, there has been a discussion on the ANSAXNET (Anglo-
Saxon mailing list) regarding the use of the 'long hundred' in Celtic
and Anglo-Saxon numbering systems. I must admit, I haven't been following
the discussion religiously, so I'm not entirely certain who all of the
participants are. But, on Tuesday, Oct. 26, Jens Ulff-Moller
posted the following two-part letter (I've joined the parts together) on the
ansax-l list, in which he requested a bit of help:
From: Jens Ulff-Moller <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Celtic long hundred?
To: Multiple recipients of list ANSAX-L <[log in to unmask]>
The long hundred is interesting because it reveals a different number concept
from that we are accustomed to now. Of course, you might consider the number
concept of Anglo-American measurement systems, but I don't know any study of
that kind. Anthropologists seem mainly to be interested in the number concept
in "primitive society" and not in advanced cultures; the Danish ethymological
dictionary sub "hundrede" tells: "It can with certainty be taken as a sign of
the relatively high mental level of the Indo-Europeans that they possessed a
number system coming up to a hundred. Certain primitive people counts 'one',
'two', 'two+one' etc." Shortly before he died I met prof. Abraham Seidenberg,
who told me that he knew of no study that could be helpful to me regarding
You are right when pointing out if they cared about the difference, e.g. the
ASC mentions 840 killed vikings in reign of Alfred, that's 7 x 120, would
it be a noticable difference from 700? of course not. But consider gold,
sheep, cows, land measurements - a 20% difference would matter, and long
hundreds were used in that context in ASE, so would it be different in Ireland
Wales, Brittany? E.g. the English pound in old days consisted of 240 pence,
or 2 long hundreds - it would make a difference if you only got 17 sh 8 d
To be continued...
Long hundreds have been found e.g. in Yorkshire sheep counting, hidage etc.
As I mentioned previously H. Pedersen: Vergleichende Grammatik d. keltischen
Sprachen, bd 2, Bedeutungslehre, Gottingen, 1913 p. 130 para. 475, states:
Irish cet = 100, cead = 120
Cornish eant byr = 100, cant hir = 120.
As he has no references and no examples it is impossible to proceed.
What can I do? He must have got it from somewhere.
I would suppose there would be linguistic studies of the Celtic number
system, but I don't know recent. - there are dozens of studies of the
Germanic system of calculation, so there should be something Celtic. Also, I
think that the French and Danish (a.o.) vigesimal calculation would be inspired
from Celtic calculation.
I am interested in your examples, but you did not specify your sources.
If 847 were actually in long hundreds, the number would be 987, not that I
place any significance to such a number.
I would be glad if somebody would post my letter to the Celtic discussion
groups, of which I am not acquainted.
Anyone interested in joining this discussion may attempt to mail directly
to Jens, at the address above. Or, if the load isn't too great, I could
forward any contributions to the ansaxnet, myself.
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