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  • Writer's pictureSeb Falk

Medieval finger-counting on the BBC

Updated: May 12, 2020

"Hand of Bede", Bodleian MS Digby 56, f. 165v

Yesterday I had an opportunity to present some medieval science on the BBC.  I had been asked to contribute to “Free Thinking” on Radio 3.  The theme of the programme was “Hands”, so I decided to fill my allocated 4 minutes by talking about early medieval finger-counting.

You can listen to the full programme here – my short essay and interview start at 22 minutes. (You can also download Free Thinking as a podcast.)

I also recorded this spur-of-the-moment clip, showing some numbers on my fingers.  A bit clumsy, but I only got one try at it!

If you want to read some more about finger-counting and hand-diagrams in the Middle Ages, I recommend this blog post by Irene O’Daly.  You can also read Bede’s The Reckoning of Time in a great edition by Faith Wallis.

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