The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 12, No. 1 Spring 1985
Ernest Stevelinck BELGIUM
ACCOUNTING IN ANCIENT TIMESa
Abstract: Studies by French scholars of ancient Egyptian and Babylonian records purport to describe accounting methods in use over two thousand years ago. The number of documents translated and analyzed is too small to justify such generali-zations. The interpretations of the records is doubtful, due to the very different economic environment in which they were created. In any case, there is little of interest to the present-day accountant in the study of primitive and obsolete ac-counting practices.
Egypt has had a long accounting history. Thousands of account-ing papyri have been discovered, extending over fifteen centuries, that reveal the state of the art more than three thousand years ago, with some degree of clarity.
However, in an article originally published in the Bulletin of the Institute of Accounting Historians of France in 1978, which reviewed a dissertation submitted for the doctoral degree at the University of Lyons by Mounir Megally in 1971, I tried to turn young dabblers in accounting history away from studies of the ancient world. The first part of what follows is extracted from that article.
"At that time, at the beginning of the New Kingdom, the scribe My, manager of the great granary Tjenouna, re-corded with his calamos reed the day's transactions, some in black and some in red.
"My was a respected manager, and his assistants worked efficiently, giving him time to observe the Nile, that generous river, and its many ships transporting goods to and from his stores. He knew the owner of every ship by name, and loved to converse with them. Amenmes, Nebouaou, Pennoub, Saamen and Touy all reported to him news of their respective nomes. And when one of the boat-men grew too old to sail his ship, his son replaced him at the helm: Ahmes, son of Iry, or Baka, son of Nechi.
aTranslated by Kenneth S. Most from "Comptabilité des Temps Anciens," Revue Beige de La Comptabilité et de L'informatique," 1983.