Early writing systems developed not to write literature or tell stories, but to keep accounting records, and might have been the catalyst for civilizations to thrive, say two accounting professors at Emory University's Goizueta Business School in a new paper, "Recordkeeping and Human Evolution."

Professors Gregory Waymire and Sudipta Basu have developed a theory that accounting, instead of being a field that developed as a side effect of a complex society, they believe it might even be said to have enabled the evolution of economically complex societies in the first place. Waymire and Basu have used existing archaeological findings for periods before the beginning of recorded history to support their theory.

"There's been only three times in the history of man that written language has been invented," said Waymire, in a statement. "Everything else has just sort of borrowed off of that." And in each case, he says, the first use of this tool seems to have been to do accounting: "It wasn't to write plays, it was to keep records."

In the paper, available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=762004, the professors argue that early recordkeeping began as a memory aid for transactions. Both Waymire and Basu are continuing to develop their theory further and have been learning more about recordkeeping in primitive cultures. Soon they will begin testing their evolutionary hypothesis with data previously collected by anthropologists.

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