GUTA: THE STORY OF ANCIENT NUPE NUMERATION
The Nupe system of counting as we see it today seems to be a motely collection of ancient and modern counting systems acculturated, integrated and mixed over the ages and throughout the historiography of Nupe.
An analytical study of the Nupe system of numeration as it is today will readily show the fact that so many aspects of the modern Nupe system of counting have been adopted and adapted from different prehistoric and historical sources over the ages.
For a very long time the Nupe system of numeration have been changing and have been assimilating all manners and types of numerical systems from all directions, all cultures and all sociological factors it is subjected to. That is why the Nupe system of numeration today does not present a consistent or homologous picture of counting today. Instead we see ternary, vigesimal, decimal and otherwise numerical systems of countings all jumbled up in the modern Nupe system of numeration.
In fact, and in the beginning, the entire Nupe numeration is not based on the modern decimal system that we are all so familiar with today and that is why it is so cumbersome to the modern world to easily grasp the Nupe system of numeration as we have it today.
Matriarchy Versus Patriarchy
In the beginning Nupe was a matriarchate based on a matriarchal culture. In matriarchy the society is dominated by women and not by men as we see it today. In any case almost all ancient cultures and societies had their beginning in matriarchates and Nupe was not an exception.
In very prehistoric times the Nupe culture was wholly based on matriarchal values and everything to do with patriarchy as we see it today was not the case.
That Nupe culture is completely patriarchal today shouldn’t blindfold us to the fact that until very recent historical times the Nupe culture and traditional values were completely matriarchal. We should not the fact that even as recent as the period just before the arrival of the Islamic Revolution in KinNupe the Nupe society was still and completely a matriarchal one.
Nupe history categorically narrated to us that even in the days of Tsoede the traditional and cultural values of Nupe culture were still matriarchal through and through. Kingship succession was in the days of Tsoede, for instance, still matrilineal and that is why we saw Tsoede succeeding his maternal uncle as the king of Tsoede while Tsoede was himself succeeded not by his own biological children but by his nephew from his sister’s side.
As a matter of fact it was the clash between the ancient matriarchal system of Nupe sociology and the new patriarchal system of Islam that led to the eventual conquest of the ancient Nupe Nation by the adventitious Islamists.
When the Islamists arrived KinNupe they met a Nupe Nation irreversibly divided between two power-struggling Tsoede dynasts one in support of the ancient Nupe matriarchal system while the other was opposed to it.
Ever since before the days of Tsoede it is was the son of a sister that succeeds a king in a matrilineal manner in Nupe culture. But a descendant of Tsoede, Etsu Mu’azu, who became a zealous Muslim broke this matrilineal line of succession in Nupe culture when in the 1750s he appointed his own biological son as the Shaba or heir apparent to succeed him after his death. And while Etsu Mu’azu laid claim to the Islamic patriarchal system of succession his nephew, prince Majiya who is the son to Etsu Mu’azu’s sister and who is, under the ancient matrilineal traditional values of Islam, was the one to succeed Etsu Mu’azu opposed Etsu Mu’azu’s breach of the ancient traditions of Islam.
The result was a serious crisis of power-struggle that eventually divided the Nupe Nation into two and thereby prostrating the Nupe Nation before the incoming Islamic revolutionaries who immediately took advantage of the situation and ultimately ended up conquering and subjugating the Nupe Nation.
The Islamists came and integrated the decimal system of numeration of patriarchy into the Nupe culture in an established manner in the 18th century. But then the Islamists were not the first to do so. As we shall discuss in greater details in a latter section of this work, it was the Kisra revolutionists who were among the earliest of the outsiders to come to acculturate the decimal system of partirachy with the ancient ternary system of numeration of the Nupe peoples.
Well, the point here is that patriarchal influences from the outside world have been encroaching and impinging on the original matriarchal culture of KinNupe since time immemorial and the Kisra patriarchal revolution in the 5th century AD and the Islamic revolution from circa 11th century onward all came and established patriarchal values, including the decimal system of numeration, over the Nupe Nation.
KinNupe is today dominated by patriarchal values whereby the number ten is used as a base for the calculation of all other higher, and even lower, numbers.
But in former times there was no patriarchy in KinNupe; in very ancient times the Nupe culture was wholly a matriarchate. And it was in those far off days that the Nupe system of counting or numeration was based on the number three and not on the five or ten that we see featuring prominently today.
Three as a base in counting is called the Ternary Numeral System. It is also called the Trinary System. This ternary or trinary system of numeration is a very ancient numeral system and is to be found among peoples with remnants of very ancient cultures.
The Original Nupe Ternary System
Now then, there was obviously a very ancient ternary or trinary system of counting using three as a base in ancient Nupe culture. But that original ternary or trinary system of counting in Old Nupe is also lost to Modern Nupe. There are still elements of ternary or trinary system of counting in Nupe numeration to this very day but then the form of ternary or trinary system of numeration that hgave survived into Modern Nupe is evidently not the original ternary system of counting originally used in ancient Nupe.
In very ancient times the Nupe people had a system of counting based on the ternary or trinary system of numeration. But this original ternary or trinary system of counting became lost to the Nupe people when it got replaced by a simpler and less complicated ternary or trinary system of counting which developed out of the simple counting systems invented by peasant farmers working on the farm fields of former KinNupe.
Nupe numeration was initially based on the number three. They said there was an ancient Nupe system of numeration that was ternary or trinary and that it was a very complex and very spiritual system of counting that was used mainly by the religious and priest-rulers or philosopher-rulers of ancient KinNupe. This religio-royal ternary system of numeration of the very ancient Nupes was said to be readily accessible only to the intiated priests and few of the elite rulers.
That religio-royal system of ternary numeration was generally not accessible to the general public. It was the exclusive reserve of the religious and royal classes. It was a very ancient numerical science that traced back to the very beginnings of humanity itself. It is said that the forme Nupe people got it from the First Civilisations of mankind itself.
But the religo-royal system of ternary numeration of the ancient Nupes gradually became extinct and disappeared into prehistory because of its exclusiveness only to the class of the religious priests and the royal personages.
The Latter Nupe Ternary System
Incidentally enough the commonality and the ordinary Nupe people who had no access to the high ternary system of ancient Nupe were busy improvising their own types of simple and artificial systems of numeration majority of which were also modeled after the ternary or trinary system with the number three as their bases.
One of the simplest of these varieties of simple ternary systems of numerations developed by the ordinary Nupe peoples in the rural areas is the one that was based on the annual division of harvest products as tributes by the rural farmers to the chiefs and the kings of the Nupe land upon which the rural farmer works.
This was as below:
One = Niní
Two = Gúbà
Three = Gútá.
This form of counting based on the number three originated in the days of the Old Nupe language in those days when slaves and semi-slave farmers worked on the fiefdoms of powerful chiefs and kings in olden times KinNupe.
In those days the serf working on the fief will have to divide his harvest into three parts; the first for himself, the second for the landlord, and the third for the king.
In Old Nupe Niní was a phrase meaning “For me”. Ení was the Old Nupe word for ‘me.
In Old Nupe Gúbà meant “For the Lord”. Ebá was the Old Nupe word for ‘lord’.
In Old Nupe Gútá meant “For the King”. Àta was the Old Nupe word for ‘king’.
So, and in ancient Nupe traditions, whenever the serf or peasant farmer gathers his harvest of the year he shares the harvest into three and says “this is for me or Niní; this is for the lord (landlord or village chief) or Gúbà; and this is for the king (of KinNupe) or Gútá.”
After paying the harvest tributes to himself (Niní), his landlord (Gúbà) and the king (Gútá) the peasant farmer will go back home and start counting simple things with the phrases Niní, Gúbà and Gútá.
And when he got to the fourth thing he starts the counting all over again by saying Gútwani. So, the original Nupe word for the number four in those days was Gútwani.
This word Gútwani is actually a phrase literally meaning, in Old Nupe, “the extra one” or “the new One” or “another One”. It is basically just a variant of the initial word Niní with the concept of ‘new’, ‘extra’ or ‘another’ added by the ancient Nupe article ‘tu’ which have survived into Modern Nupe as the Nupe word for ‘extra’.
And when the farmer got to the fifth article on his count he repeat the word Gúbà but this time around in the form of the differentiating variant Gútwàbà which literally, and in Old Nupe, meant ‘extra Two’ or ‘another Two’ or ‘new Two’….
Yes… the original Old Nupe word for the number five was Gútwàbà and not the Gútsuṇ that the decimalists have mischievously smuggled into Nupe numeration over the ages. But I will discuss that later.
The farmer continues with his count, of the sixth article by saying Gútotá, a word that is simply a variant of Gútá with the intercalated ‘tu’ or ‘tu o’ or ‘to’ affix simply differentiating it from the initial Gútá of three. And so Gútotá was the original, Old Nupe, word for the number six.
And after the second round of threes which ends with Gútotá or six, the farmer rounds up his counting with Gúwo or seven.
So, and in retrospect, we can see, that the original Old Nupe numeration was as follows:
One = Niní
Two = Gúbà
Three = Gútá
Four = Gútwani
Five = Gútwàbà
Six = Gútotá
Seven = Gúwo
And that was how the Old Nupe numerical system became anchored on the number three.
As a matter of fact the ternary or trinary numeral system can be used as a marker to trace cultures or peoples who were able to retain very ancient numeral systems right unto historical or modern times. It is in this context that we see that since the ternary or trinary numeral system has survived, at least in part among the Nupe people, that the Nupe culture is indeed a very ancient one.
That elements of the ternary or trinary system of numeration have survived among the Nupe people to this very day is a formidable corroboration of the fact that the Nupe culture is indeed a very ancient one going back to aeons in the remotest annals of prehistory.
In all parts of the world we readily see the fact that ternary systems of numeration have survived only among the most ancient peoples.
The Nupe culture is indeed a very ancient one for it to have retained in it to this very day elements of the ternary system of numeration.
But decimal elements – in the form of the words Gútsuṇ (for five), Gúwo (now for ten), Gwégì (now for fifteen), Eshi (for 20), Gbàṇwǒ (for 30), Rudíṇ (for thrity-five) and Áráta (for 50) were, later on, surreptitiously but incongruously smuggled into Nupe numeration at some ancient time on the eve of the modern historical era. This happened when the civilisation of patriarchy and sun-worship suddenly refluxed back into KinNupe in the days of the shattering of the ancient Sara one world religion on the international scene outside the African continent. It was the era of the Kisra Reflux Refugees.
However, the smuggling of decimal elements into Nupe numeration has only gone to make things more cumbersome for the Nupe numeral system.
The Kisra decimalists came and replaced the original Gútwàbà, for 5, with the decimal invention they call ‘Gútsuṇ’ simply because the decimalists were not comfortable with a numeration or counting system that did not have definite names or words for the decimal numbers five and ten.
They came and gave the name ‘Gútsuṇ’ to the number five because the royal title of their kings was ‘Etsu’ a royal title they derived from the name of their Almighty God called the ‘Etsá’ or Yǐsà – the same who is known as ‘Yashua’ to the Semitic tongue and that is today Latinise as ‘Jesus’.
Their royal title for their king called the Etsa was also pronounced as Etsu – as we pronounce to this very day as the Nupe royal title for a king.
These Yisa, Etsa or Etsu people returning form the outside world were patriarchal decimalists who were not comfortable with the ancient Nupe ternary or trinary system of numeration that had no definite or basic name for decimal intergers including the numbers five, ten or twenty. They, accordingly, disfigured the ancient Nupe ternary system of numeration into a decimal one.
They replaced Gútwàbà, the original Nupe word for five, with Gútsuṇ, their own decimal invention for their patriarchal king the Etsu.
This new word Gútsuṇ was nothing but a compound of ‘gu’ and ‘etsu’ or the Old Nupe word directly translating ‘for the Etsu’. So, apart from dividing the harvest for himself, for the chief and for the king the serf working on the fiefdom is now expected to also keep a dividend of his harvest for the Kisra or Yisa emperor known as the Etsu.
It was the Yǐsà or Nùsà or Kisra Nupencizhi who, coming from the outside, Hellenic, Persian, and Roman civilisations, of the Aegean, Mediterranean, and Asia Minor general areas, with their decimal system of counting who came and forced new names for the decimal figures five and ten into the ancient Nupe numeral system.
The civilisations and worldviews from which these people were coming were based on patriarchy, sun-cultism and the worship of light.
But the ancient Nupe culture they met was based on the purer and more advanced high civilisations of matriarchy, moon-cultism and Darkness Religion. It was that ancient matriarchal Nupe culture that practised a numerical system based on the number three.
Eshi or Twenty as the New Base
The attempt of the new-arrivals patriarchs at changing the Old Nupe matriarchal numeration of three to a decimal one, however, met with half success such that today the Nupe numerical system is evidently a combination, and rather jumbled, merger of the two – with counting based on both three and ten (or five) featuring simultaneously and side by side in the Nupe system of counting.
A lasting testament to the failure of these decimalists at a complete conversion of the ancient Nupe ternary or trinary system of numeration into a decimal one is the incongruous emergence of the number twenty as the first base in the Nupe system of numeration.
It is really interesting, and even uncanny, to note the fact that the Nupe system of numeration as we have it today is built on the number twenty as its first base. The point here is that the decimalists not only failed in replacing the number three with the number ten as the base of the Nupe system of numeration but also that their failed attempt actually resulted in the emergence of the number twenty as the new, and permanent, base for the Nupe system of numeration.
The decimalists couldn’t do away with three as the base number of the ancient Nupe system of numeration and they also couldn’t impose their own ten as the base number of the Nupe system of numeration. Instead, and out of this crisis, emerged the number twenty as the new base number of the Nupe system of numeration.
It was ever since then that the number twenty became the first base number in the Nupe system of numeration as we see it established to this very day. Ever since then the Nupe system of numeration is constructed on a methodology whereby all numbers after twenty are accounted for with the nearest multiple of twenty in mind.
So we ended up with multiples of twenty bearing names reflective of twenty as the base upon which they are constructed. And so is twenty used as the base upon which all other numbers and multiples of twenty are counted and calculated from forty through hundred to a hundred and eighty until twenty itself becomes transmogrified into its greater alter ego called Kpako at the number two hundred.
And in a similar vein, building on the same methodology of twenty as the new base number in Nupe system of numeration, Kpákó or the number two hundred and its multiples are used from four hundred or Kpoba through one thousand or Kpotsun to one thousand eight hundred or Kpótwani just before Kpákó itself transmogrifies, as a greater alter ego of twenty or Eshi, into Gbǎ or two thousand.
From Gbǎ or two thousand onward the Nupe system of numeration became anchored on Gbǎ as the highest number upon which all other numbers and figures of counting are constructed.
Gbǎ or two thousand is today the highest number used in the Nupe numeration system to acoount for any other multiple higher than Gbǎ itself. The implication here is that using Gbǎ as the highest unit in the Nupe system of numeration any other number, no matter how great or large, can be calculated with Gbǎ and its multiples as the denominators.
That was the methodology employed by Reverend A.W. Banfield who was able to, way back in 1912, count Nupe numbers from one to eight hundred billion.