The Maya civilization, one of the most notable civilizations of Mesoamerica, occupied the areas of modern Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador. It is believed to originate approximately 2000 BCE. It’s only natural that the Maya peoples fascinated with astronomy and celestial mechanics developed advanced mathematical practices and a sophisticated numeral system.

## Numbers from 0 to 19

The Maya developed a base-20 numeral system using only three different systems to represent various numbers:

- An upside-down turtle shell was used to represent “zero.” The Maya peoples are believed to be the first to use “zero” as a place-holder.

- A dot (.) signified “one” – 3 dots placed in a horizontal row represented number 3;

- A bar (_) meant “five” – 3 bars placed one above the other stood for number 15.

*Therefore, the Maya numeral system is sometimes called the bar-and-dot system. Some scientists argue that it is based on finger-counting since a human has 20 fingers – 5 (a bar) fingers on each hand and 5 toes on each foot.*

## Numbers larger than 19