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Archaic Bookkeeping: Early Writing and Techniques of Economic Administration in the Ancient Near East
by Hans J. Nissen, Peter Damerow and Robert K. Englund
translated by Paul Larsen
University of Chicago Press, 1993
Cloth: 978-0-226-58659-5
Library of Congress Classification PJ4075.N5713 1993
Dewey Decimal Classification 499.95

Archaic Bookkeeping brings together the most current
scholarship on the earliest true writing system in human
history. Invented by the Babylonians at the end of the
fourth millennium B.C., this script, called proto-cuneiform,
survives in the form of clay tablets that have until now
posed formidable barriers to interpretation. Many tablets,
excavated in fragments from ancient dump sites, lack a clear
context. In addition, the purpose of the earliest tablets
was not to record language but to monitor the administration
of local economies by means of a numerical system.

Using the latest philological research and new methods
of computer analysis, the authors have for the first time
deciphered much of the numerical information. In
reconstructing both the social context and the function of
the notation, they consider how the development of our
earliest written records affected patterns of thought, the
concept of number, and the administration of household
economies. Complete with computer-generated graphics keyed
to the discussion and reproductions of all documents referred
to in the text, Archaic Bookkeeping will interest
specialists in Near Eastern civilizations, ancient history,
the history of science and mathematics, and cognitive

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