The History of Accounting

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The history of accounting is as old as civilization and is among the most important professions in economic and cultural development. Much of what we know about the daily lives of ancient people comes from accounting records, such as inventories and sales records, found at archeological sites. People in all civilizations have maintained various types of records of business activities and the earliest known records kept are the clay tablet records for the payment of wages in the Mesopotamian Valley around 3500 BC.

The Mesopotamian Valley is now mostly in the borders of Iraq. The Valley, which included the city of Babylon, was an especially rich area of agriculture. As farmers prospered, support businesses and small industries developed and the area became a regional center for economic commerce. In fact, the Babylonian Empire was the most powerful state in that time and Babylonian became the language of business and politics.

The Mesopotamian equivalent of today's accountant was the scribe. Scribes invented record keeping systems. They also kept running inventories of wealth, trade, and tribute payments. Temples, palaces and private businesses employed hundreds of scribes, and it was considered a prestigious profession. Clay, which was plentiful in the area, was molded to size and then the information required was written into the clay with a sharpened wooden rod. The clay tablet was then dried and was kept as a permanent record.

The Egyptians also used a system similar to the Babylonians. Instead of the clay tablets, they used papyrus, which allowed them to create more detailed records. These records were kept for the royals to document their "in kind" tax payments. The Egyptian accountants were required to be honest and accurate, if they were not they were punished by fine, mutilation or death.

The Greeks in about 600 B.C. introduced coined money. Although coined money took time to become widespread, it was an important...
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