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ERIC Number: ED244300
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1984-Apr
Pages: 10
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: 0
The Origins of Writing.
Schmandt-Besserat, Denise
Writing appears to have originated from a modest system of counters or tokens used to keep track of economic goods and transactions. This system of recording appeared in 8000 B. C. in Mesopotamia, or what is now Iraq. The tokens' consistency in shape and size during the next 4,000 years attests to the stability of the agricultural economy and way of life. When cities began to appear, the number of types of tokens increased, and incised and punched markings proliferated on the face of the tokens in response to the need for a more intricate record keeping system. Around 3300 B. C., simple hollow clay balls were invented. They provided both a means of holding and protecting the tokens of a particular transaction, and a clay surface onto which the parties involved could impress their personal seals, thereby insuring against any tampering with the contents of the ball, or envelope. Eventually, the tokens were pressed into the clay of the envelope's outer surface and then enclosed in the envelope, so the contents could be read without having to open the envelope and break the seal. These outer impressions then made the presence of the tokens inside superfluous, and in 3100 B. C. the hollow envelopes were replaced by solid tablets into which the shapes of the relevant tokens could be pressed. These signs were later replaced by incised signs illustrating the shape of the tokens and their markings. The repertoire of symbols grew to include those representing other than economic goods, drawn from sources other than the tokens, thus opening writing to all fields of human endeavor. (HTH)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Cuneiform
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (68th, New Orleans, LA, April 23-27, 1984).