Introduction to Accounting
Accounting is a profession used to make financial and business decisions. Billions of dollars exchange hands every day, in millions of separate business transactions. These are recorded and reported on using a comprehensive set of guidelines, referred to as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Brief History of Accounting
Accounting was born before writing or numbers existed, some 10,000 years ago, in the area known as Mesopotamia, later Persia, and today the countries of Iran and Iraq. This area contains the Tigris Euphrates river valley, a large fertile area 10,000 years ago with a large thriving population and active trading between towns and cities up and down the two rivers. Writing and numbers would be not be invented for about another 5,000 years. And what happens next will directly lead to the invention of both writing and number systems. At that time, merchants faced many of the same problems businesses face today. They had to ship their merchandise up and down the rivers, and that meant trusting a boatman with their goods. Unfortunately, not all boatmen were honest, and disagreements often arose about how much was shipped versus what was received at the other end. It is hard for us today to imagine a world without writing and numbers. Try to imagine yourself in their position.... what would you do? To deal with the problem, merchants came up with an ingenious plan. They made small clay tokens, in various shapes and with various markings, to indicate different products. One would mean a basket of grain, another would mean a pot of oil, etc. They had over 200 such tokens to indicate a large variety of common goods, including food, leather, clothing, utensils, tools, jewelry, etc. Before shipping their goods, a merchant would take one token for each item in the shipment, and encase the tokens in a ball of clay, called a "bollae" (pronounced "bowl-eye") - meaning ball. The ball would be dried in the sun, given to the boatman, and then broken by the buyer on the other end of the transaction. The buyer would match the tokens with the items in the shipment, to verify that everything sent was accounted for. This is the function of protection of assets, and is a major function of all modern accounting systems. It was important 10,000 years ago and is just as important now. Today we see merchants doing the same thing as their counterparts 10 millennia ago - today they get a bill of lading - a listing of the merchandise entrusted to a shipper. The system of using bollae continued for almost 5,000 years, all before the invention of writing or numbers. One day, probably by accident, a wet clay bollae was rolled over a loose token, laying on the ground. The impression of the token was left in the wet clay. Merchants began pressing the tokens on the outside of the bollae, in addition to putting the tokens inside the ball. Eventually they would press tokens into a flat piece of clay, leaving an impression for each item. Remember, they didn't have numbers yet, so they would press a token into the clay for each individual item. Probably by accident one day the right token couldn't be found, and someone used a stick or other object to make the right marks in the soft clay tablet. And writing was born.... New symbols were soon created representing multiple items, and suddenly both writing and number systems were invented. The last phase of this remarkable process took about 500 years, but once writing was invented, it caught on like wildfire, and was the most popular thing anyone had ever seen. People were so much in love with writing they did it every chance they could. We have a huge amount of archaeological evidence to support this notion. Thousands of small clay tablets still survive today. A common example: a worker sent his boss a note saying he would be late for work that day because he had chores to do. He would hire a scribe to write the tablet (only a few people could read or...
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