NEOLITHIC COUNTING TOKENS

MS 5067/1-8
MS Short Title NEOLITHIC COUNTING TOKENS
Text NEOLITHIC PLAIN COUNTING TOKENS POSSIBLY REPRESENTING 1 MEASURE OF GRAIN, 1 ANIMAL AND 1 MAN OR 1 DAY'S LABOUR, RESPECTIVELY
Description Counting tokens in clay, Syria/Sumer/Highland Iran, ca. 8000-3500 BC, 3 spheres: diam. 1,6, 1,7 and 1,9 cm , (D.S.-B 2:1); 3 discs: diam. 1,0x0,4 cm, 1,1x0,4 cm and 1,0x0,5 cm (D.S.-B 3:1); 2 tetrahedrons: sides 1,4 cm and 1,7 cm (D.S.-B 5:1).
Commentary

About 8000 BC the Palaeolithic notched tallies representing the simplest form of counting, in one-to-one correspondence, were superseded by Neolithic tokens of various geometric forms suited for concrete counting, including the type of commodity.

This invention was used without any discontinuity for 5000 years, prior to the use of abstract numbers which lead to writing about 3300 BC, and then to mathematics ca. 2600 BC. When tokens were invented they were the first clay objects of the Near East, and they first exploited systematically most of the basic geometric forms, such as spheres, tetrahedrons, cones, cylinders, discs, quadrangles, triangles, etc. They were first kept in baskets, leather poaches, clay bowls, etc., and later within clay bullas, see MSS 4631, 4632 and 4638.

Exhibited The Norwegian Intitute of Palaeography and Historical Philology (PHI), Oslo, 13.10.2003-06.2005.
Place of origin Syria / Sumer / Highland Iran
Dates ca 8000 - 3500 BC

Location