Her field is the art and archaeology of the ancient Near East. She was trained at the Ecole du Louvre, Paris, France. Schmandt-Besserat has worked on the origin of writing and counting. She showed that, before writing, art in the ancient Near East mostly consisted of repetitive motifs. But, after writing, conventions of the Mesopotamian script, such as the semantic use of form, size, order and placement of signs on a tablet was applied to images resulting in complex visual narratives.
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Before Writing, Vol. I : From Counting to Cuneiform. Denise Schmandt-Besserat. Before Writing gives a new perspective on the evolution of communication. It points out that when writing began in Mesopotamia it was not, as previously thought, a sudden and spontaneous invention.
Instead, it was the outgrowth of many thousands of years' worth of experience at manipulating symbols. Denise Schmandt-Besserat presents a system of counters tokens that appeared in the Near East following the invention of agriculture about B. Tokens were small objects modeled in clay in various geometric forms used for counting and accounting for goods.
They remained in use during 5, years with little change, except at the rise of cities, when the types multiplied. The tokens represented a breakthrough in communication. They constituted the first code, the first system of signs for communication. They made it possible to deal concurrently with multiple kinds of data, thus allowing the processing of a volume and complexity of information never reached previously.
Tokens functioned as an extension of the human brain to collect, manipulate, store, and retrieve data. In turn, processing an increasing volume of data brought people to think in greater abstraction. Before Writing discusses how the tokens reflect an archaic way of "concrete counting" that paved the way to abstract counting. The evolution of the token system was also tied to the development of political power, since accounting was key to the control of real goods.
Before Writing documents how numeracy was the privilege of an elite and shows how the more complex the token system became the more power it wielded. Written in an engaging and lively style, Before Writing, Volume I: From Counting to Cuneiform has significance far beyond a single field. It will be of interest to scholars and general readers interested in the origin of civilization, communication, and mathematics. Museum objects occur origin ovoids particular percent perforated period pictographic plain present Press probably produced punctations quantities recovered remained represented seals sets shapes signs southern specimens spheres stone strokes subtypes suggests Sumerian Susa symbols Syria tablets Tell temple Tepe Tepe Gawra tetrahedrons texts third tion token system triangles units University Uruk vessels writing yielded.
Couch , David R.
She spent much of her professional career as a professor at the University of Texas. Denise Besserat was born into a family of lawyers and winemakers. Her early education was at the hands of tutors. The school's nuns directed her to a prospective career as a language interpreter, for which she spent periods in Ireland and Germany in language studies. They lived in Paris, where three sons Alexander, Christophe, Phillip were added to the family. She graduated in , after which the family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts , where her husband had been offered employment.