Iranian village accounting, which we studied by translating and analyzing the records of a trading house in the early twentieth century, was relatively unaffected by Western contact. The records were kept on a slightly modified cash basis, single-entry, with little distinction between business and personal transactions; this mirrors accounting practices in many “developing” societies. What was indeed unique was a distinctive set of numerical symbols, comprehensible to but a few initiates in each community, and whose primary goal was secrecy and privacy of the records. The system was used well before 1900 and is still in use in some rural areas today.

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