How Writing Came About
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How Writing Came About

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Description

Winner, Top 100 Books on Science, American Scientist, 2001 In 1992, the University of Texas Press published Before Writing, Volume I: From Counting to Cuneiform and Before Writing, Volume II: A Catalog of Near Eastern Tokens. In these two volumes, Denise Schmandt-Besserat set forth her groundbreaking theory that the cuneiform script invented in the Near East in the late fourth millennium B.C.-the world's oldest known system of writing-derived from an archaic counting device. How Writing Came About draws material from both volumes to present Schmandt-Besserat's theory for a wide public and classroom audience. Based on the analysis and interpretation of a selection of 8,000 tokens or counters from 116 sites in Iran, Iraq, the Levant, and Turkey, it documents the immediate precursor of the cuneiform script.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 207 pages
  • 175.26 x 251.46 x 12.7mm | 430.91g
  • University of Texas Press
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • English
  • Abridged
  • Abridged
  • 27 b&w photos, 18 line drawings, 3 maps, 5 tables, 42 pages of charts
  • 0292777043
  • 9780292777040
  • 566,516

Back cover copy

In 1992, the University of Texas Press published Before Writing, Volume I: From Counting to Cuneiform and Before Writing, Volume II: A Catalog of Near Eastern Tokens. In these two volumes, Denise Schmandt-Besserat set forth her groundbreaking theory that the cuneiform script invented in the Near East in the late fourth millennium B.C. - the world's oldest known system of writing - derived from anarchaic counting device. How Writing Came About draws material from both volumes to present Schmandt-Besserat's theory for a wide public and classroom audience. Based on the analysis and interpretation of a selection of 8,000 tokens or counters from 116 sites in Iran, Iraq, the Levant, and Turkey, it documents the immediate precursor of the cuneiform script.

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Review quote

"Discoveries in the history of writing are rare, but Denise Schmandt-Besserat made one in realizing that phonetic writing in the West descends not from pictography, a view repeated everywhere, but from abstract, nonphonetic, mostly noniconographic accounting tokens used in Neolithic farming communities of the Near East beginning from about 8000 B.C. A condensation of volume I of Before Writing ...this book is a perfect production, utterly lucid, thoughtfully illustrated, and thoroughly convincing." American Journal of Archaeology

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Table of contents

* Preface * Introduction: Tokens, a New Theory * The Myths * The Pictographic Theory * Tokens * Part One: The Evidence * What Are Tokens? * Types and Subtypes * Evolution from Plain to Complex Materials * Manufacture * The Token Collection under Study * Where Tokens Were Handled and Who Used Them * Types of Settlements * Distribution within Settlements * Structures * Token Clusters * Containers Holding Tokens * Associated Assemblages * Tokens as Funerary Offerings * Strings of Tokens and Envelopes * Strings of Tokens * Envelopes * Impressed Tablets * Number * Context * Chronology * Description * The Signs * Beyond the Impressed Tablets: Pictography * The Meaning of Signs and Their Corresponding Tokens * The Place of Impressed Tablets in the Evolution of Writing * Part Two: The Interpretation *The Evolution of Symbols in Prehistory * Symbols and Signs * Lower and Middle Paleolithic Symbols * Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic Symbols * Neolithic Symbols * A Turning Point in Communication and Data Storage * Tokens: The Socioeconomic Implications * Reckoning Technology and Economy * Reckoning Technology and Social Organization * Counting and the Emergence of Writing * The Various Modes of Counting * The Sumerian Philological Evidence * The Near Eastern Archaeological Data * Conclusions: Tokens, Their Role in Prehistory and Their Contribution to Archaeology * Economy * Political Structure * Mathematics * Communication * Part Three: The Artifacts * Cones * Spheres * Disks * Cylinders * Tetrahedrons * Ovoids * Quadrangles * Triangles * Biconoids * Paraboloids * Bent Coils * Ovals/Rhomboids * Vessels * Tools * Animals * Miscellaneous * Notes * Glossary * Index

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