In the Kharosthi inscriptions of the third century B.C. four numerals occur, the origin and meaning of which are evident:
In the Saka inscriptions of the first century before Christ more characters appear, and the resemblance to the Roman becomes striking:
This system is constructed of the symbols for 1, 4, 10, 20, 100, and so forth, as the Roman is built upon the I, V, X, L, C, D, and M.
In the same period another system was invented in which greater flexibility and power were obtained by using an increased number of signs. In the third century B.C. certain of King Asoka's inscriptions in the Brahmi writing contain these characters:
In the following century an inscription in the Nana Ghat cave near Poona in central India has even more interesting ones:
Here the 1, 6, and 7, which we now use, appear plainly; while the 2 and 9 are in rudimentary form. About two hundred years later inscriptions in the Nasik cave contain all of the important Hindu numerals:
- From Smith and Karpinski, "The Hindu-Arabic Numerals."