Home' A Plus Magazine : April 2013 Contents 60 April 2013
rchaeologists recently found an-
cient car v ings revealing what the
world’s first pharaoh did: he was a
How would you have assumed Pharaoh
Narmer filled his days? Whipping slaves,
mummifying relatives, walking like an
Egyptian and preparing curses for modern
day explorers? Last year, I read a bestselling
thriller called The Third Gate in which Narm-
er did all those things, and then rose from the
dead to attack modern archaeologists.
But the amazing truth was recently discov-
ered in 5,000 -year-old carvings on rocks at a
desert site in Egypt. Narmer v isited elite fami-
lies in the kingdom to discuss tax matters with
them, according to a report on Discover y.com.
Of course, tax consultations were a bit dif-
ferent in those days. The pictures show that
Narmer went every where in an entourage,
either on a convoy of five boats, or being car-
ried along with a royal dog and flag bearers
in front of him, and punkah-wallahs holding
fans behind him. You rarely see this sort of
thing these days, although I suspect some big
firm partners would enjoy this level of gran-
Any way, it worked. Narmer and his team
raised enough cash to unify the region into a
single country, Egypt, and earn Narmer his
place in history.
This discovery is also the latest nail in
the coffin of a long-running argument over
whether poets or prose writers evolved
first. We now know the first writing was ac-
“ The oldest writing found so far is Chi-
nese pictograms from 6,600 years ago, but
records of numbers are much older,” said a
keen amateur historian of my acquaintance.
The “notches in the bedpost” system of
counting was invented at least 40,000 years
ago. Actual accounting documents started
to appear 8,000 to 9,000 years ago.
At that point there was an expectant
pause in the conversation while he waited for
me to say: “But surely money had not been
invented at that date?” I DID say it, too, albeit
after he prompted me, as I only do spontane-
ous witty comebacks with written scripts.
“ You’re right,” he continued. “ There was
no money. The first accounts were tallies of
numbers of goods, not cash amounts.”
Ancient tax consultations probably went
1. You check out the local tax consultants.
Who will you choose? KPMG-Ra? Ernst
and Hotep? Deloitte Nefertiti Thornton?
2. The chosen professional goes round the
back of your house and notes you have 42
goats. He takes four 10-goat tokens and
two one-goat tokens from his pocket and
seals them in a hollow clay ball, marking
the outside with the total and, knowing
accountants, an unreadable signature that
will baffle archaeologists for millennia.
3. Narmer the Pharaoh and his officials
would then turn up in your town. The
landowners would gather in the square
and show him their balls for royal inspec-
tion, so to speak. They would then have
their tax liabilities calculated on the spot.
If there were suspicions that fraud was
taking place, the clay ball was smashed
and the tokens counted.
It was a good system and I think we
should revive it in place of all the form-filling
that goes on today. Just visualize hundreds
of accountants sitting in front of spinning
wheels with piles of mud, making clay balls.
Picture the delight of making tokens for all
your possessions. Imagine the yearly meet-
ing in the forecourt of Revenue Tower in
Wanchai for the Annual Examination of the
Balls. We’d all have loads of fun.
Except for whoever has to carry the tax
consultants to their client meetings.
Nury Vittachi is a bestselling author, columnist, lecturer and
TV host. He wrote the Institute’s first two storybooks, May
Moon and the Secrets of the CPAs and May Moon Rescues the
World Economy. A third, May Moon’s Book of Choices, was
published in 2012.
Get your daily dose of Nury’s humour at www.mrjam.org
Let’s get fiscal
When tax returns
were made of mud
Archaeologists – and accountants –
could learn something from the first
pharaoh, says Nury Vittachi
“You check out
the local tax
will you choose?
and Hotep? Deloitte
Nefertiti Thornton? ”
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