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How Writing Came About [Format Kindle]

Denise Schmandt-Besserat

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Présentation de l'éditeur

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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  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 3601 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 207 pages
  • Editeur : University of Texas Press; Édition : Abridged (1 janvier 2010)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
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10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An interesting scholarly book. 29 janvier 2007
Par Z. Martinez - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
This book will take you through the ruins of an ancient city in Mesopotamia and then will explain the meaning of certain tablets and clay coins found there. The author is very clear in her explanations, there are plenty of pictures and graphics which make your understanding of the text easier. This book is for those who like reading scholarly material because it is very concise and precise on the subject but it could seem dry reading to those who prefer the material to be presented in a more entertaining way.

I found it very interesting, and it helped me understand the transition from letters to numbers. I loved it!
20 internautes sur 28 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An expert traces language 29 septembre 1998
Par - Publié sur
Schmandt-Besserat is not only an acknowledged leader in epigraphy, she is one of the only linguists to study the slowly evolving history of the assyro-babylonian literary culture. This book, and any other by this author, is strongly reccommended for any library or archeological department.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An Important book for historians, archaeologists, ethnosemanticists, and other specialists in the development of writing. 21 mai 2015
Par The Old Prof - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
This excellent book is an abridgment of Schmandt-Besserat’s two volumes on the inception of writing entitled BEFORE WRITING: I FROM COUNTING TO CUNEIFORM and II A CATALOG OF NEAR EASTERN TOKENS. The professional investigator will want the full set. But this book, addressed to the general reader, is a MUST for other professionals (archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, etc.) who wish to delve into the depths of the amazing invention of writing. Note that the title of the book is “BEFORE WRITING CAME ABOUT”—it is not “Before Alphabetic Writing Came About.” That would have been a book about the origin of alphabetic writing under Egyptian influence. But this book takes us much further back to about 8000 BC (the Neolithic era) when counting (and accounting) began in the ancient Near East, specifically in the Mesopotamian area of the world.

She illustrates her book thoroughly with many photographs of the tokens discovered by excavators, with the clay envelopes that contained tokens, with drawings of token types and other useful interpretive material such as charts and lists of tokens. She draws on earlier contributors to the study of the beginning of civilization (such as Alexander Marshack’s THE ROOTS OF CIVILIZATION (1972)).

She notes (pp. 10f) that the Akkadian term “token” is ABNU (singular) or ABNATI (plural) and knowledgeable investigators will recognize these as cognate with the Hebrew word EBEN and readers educated in the fields of linguistic anthropology and ethnosemantics will be aware that “eben” (“stone”) may not always align meaningfully with the use of the cognate in another culture, i.e. “abnu” (“token”) in Akkadian. Context is all important.

Her introduction is a very good and succinct perusal of how the evolution of writing—and the evolution of thinking about writing—came about.
On pages 20-25 she discusses why some tokens have high representation from some ancient sites whereas a nearby site may show poor examples of tokens. In some cases I suspect that the dirt was poorly sifted (as she recognizes). Israeli excavator, Gabriel Barkay’s long-going wet sifting in Jerusalem and other sites in Israel also demonstrates that the advance of excavation techniques may contribute significantly to better artefact discoveries. But I also suspect that if excavators make small finds but do not know the conceptual framework within which to set them, then they may be dismissed as “unimportant.” This is also a problem which the author discusses. Archaeologists would do well to read her presentation so that they become aware of what they may be missing.

In chapter seven (pp. 111-122) the author has an interesting discussion of the emergence and evolution of the early stages of writing in Mesopotamia. Although nowhere does she mention Edward Sapir, or Benjamin Lee Whorf or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, I believe her discussion of this topic may be a good illustration not only about how culture and language are closely intertwined, but how ways of thinking about a topic—in this discussion it is about the ancient economy and how man changed from a hunting-gathering society, to a “ranked” society, to a state economy under the “En” or overlord who controlled his kingdom. It is one illustration of how the “strong Whorfian” view and the “weak Whorfian view is meaningful. By this I mean that her discussion illustrates not how “linguistic determinism” rigidly controls life views, but how “linguistic relativity” influences the ways man thought about things—in this context it is the tallying of commodities or, later, the evolution of thought about how to account for those commodities. Denise Schmandt-Besserat is not deliberately providing a case study for linguistic anthropology or ethnosemantics, but it seems to me a most useful illustration of it.

There is a good set of endnotes, a brief glossary (giving meanings she uses, not across the wider expanse of literature that might be relevant to the topic), and a good index. Unfortunately there is no formal bibliography—either select or otherwise. One must consult the footnotes for her sources or gain access to volume II of her full work for references to previously published materials. This makes it somewhat inconvenient for the general reader who might wish to investigate the matter further.

Overall, this is an important work and should bring accessibility to investigators who may not wish to purchase the two volume set.
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Informative and Readable 20 février 2015
Par Rod Scher - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Excellent overview of the evolution of writing, by a researcher who is THE preeminent authority on the subject.
20 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 You Owe Me 20 novembre 2005
Par Charles de Plume - Publié sur
Holy Moley! By Internet standards, the first (and only, until mine) review of this book is of a seemingly archaeological date, seven years ago, that is. Well, I suppose this review won't make much difference when (if) it's read seven years from now! This book is, obviously, a work by a scholar, which is an entirely different category of "being smart." We don't call upon scholars to fix our plugged-up toilets or change the flat tire on our car or restore the electricity, but, if you know just enough history to be grateful to live in our consumer-friendly epoch, you'll be grateful that some out there have dedicated their lives to recording and analyzing the long process of human growth, and the growth of civilization. You can have your Back To Nature fantasies--I'll take the hot shower and electric coffee maker, thank you very much. This particular work, apparently, is a condensation of a two-volume scholarly work, one which, I am sure, that I will never read. But the current volume (the second half of which I read last night, while eating fancy crackers and drinking humble red wine--giving me a connection, I felt, to the agrarian Past of Sumer and Uruk, etc.) is about as good as it gets for laymen (me). For me, it's almost like a religious text, transcending race, language, skin color, nationalism; it's like a Time Machine that takes you back within the range of a subtle sniff of our "egalitarian" prehistoric ancestors; "egalitarian" meaning a small-population culture where you pretty much fed yourself and participated in the group without the framework of authority other than myth and ritual. A fun read for those who have exhausted the cultural potentialities of SIMPSONS reruns. I wholeheartedly agree with the author's thesis that counting preceded writing. In fact, it was my hunch--from my own reading and thinking--that this was so that prompted me to search for a book with this theory. It just makes sense. I highly doubt that any early resident of a city started the road to high civilization talking about "ennui" or "existentialism." They talked about, "Hey! I paid you this much last month. And you owe me this much tomorrow." Makes sense to me. Just the evidence-supported argument alone that breaking the counting-beyond-three barrier took thousands of years was worth the cover price to me. The single concept (and revelation) that in no way is the faculty of counting beyond three inate to brain function and hence, inate to our modern minds, is simply stunning to me, and adds a dose of gratitude to my daily life, a realization that makes it easier to laugh off the troubles of modern life. We owe so much to the hundreds of generations of men and women who have gone before us, most just living day to day. A good read, especially when enjoyed with fancy crackers and red wine...and about forty years' worth of reading, living and reflecting. So far as what the next review will address: I ain't holding my breath--and that is a very archaelogical attitude.
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