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Mesopotamian Counting Tokens

 Mesopotamian Counting Tokens

1tokens_writing_tepe_gawra_1

(Basic counting tokens, c. 4000 BCE)

http://sites.utexas.edu/dsb/tokens/tokens/

     Archeological digs in the Middle East have uncovered small clay objects with markings on the various faces and edges.  Many archeologists and historians have tried to determine the possible use of these tokens in the past century or so.  Some thought they were children’s toys or pieces of amateur art.  Recent studies have determined these tokens to have been a vital part of the economy as they represented numerical values of a specific commodity.  Art historian Denise Schmandt-Besserat is credited with finding the true purpose of the Mesopotamian clay tokens.  She discovered six distinct token shapes that represented different measurements of items like grain.  Early tokens were spheres, cones, disks, and other basic shapes.  These tokens were used by the peoples of Mesopotamia as far back as 7500 BCE.   Over time the complexity and uses of the tokens evolved.  There began to be writing on the tokens, possibly markings to denote an association to an accurate counting system.  By 3500 BCE the tokens began to be used alongside sphere like objects with small pockets meant for the tokens.  Many historians believe these spheres were sent alongside goods as an early attempt at a trading invoice.

1tokens_writing_3

(Tokens and Envelope, c. 3300 BCE)

http://sites.utexas.edu/dsb/tokens/tokens/

     The tokens were present in civilizations that didn’t have an established writing system.  These tokens predated writing and numerical systems that developed in the same region.  Schmandt-Besserat and other historians believe the tokens helped to emphasize the importance of numbering systems and caused the Sumerians to develop the more complex sexagesimal number system present in third millennium Sumer.  Tokens and clay envelopes changed in Sumer to represent more than just one of a specific object.  Certain tokens would represent ten or sixty portions as opposed to the early system that used one token for one item.  There is also a direct link between the tokens and the early development of agriculture.  Hunter gatherer groups didn’t have a need for the tokens because they used a simple system of economics, like for like trading.  Agriculture brought new economic opportunities and with it the need for a system to manage a more complex economic system.  These basic tokens were the beginnings of counting in Mesopotamia and heavily influenced the later development of more modern counting systems.

Bibliography

Frank Swetz. “Mathematical Treasure: Mesopotamian Counting Tokens.” Convergence 10 (2013). Accessed March 8, 2015. http://www.maa.org/publications/periodicals/convergence/mathematical-treasure-mesopotamian-accounting-tokens.

Denise Schmandt-Besserat . “Tokens: Their Significance For the Origin of Counting and Writing.” Denise Schmandt-Besserat. Accessed March 8, 2015. http://sites.utexas.edu/dsb/tokens/tokens/.

Wikipedia contributors, “Sexagesimal,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sexagesimal&oldid=643765109 (accessed March 8, 2015).

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Collapse of the Minoans: Who or What is to Blame?

GreeceCrete

(“GreeceCrete”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

    In the past, many historians and archaeologists believed that the eruption of Thera, now modern day Santorini located in the Aegean Sea, was the direct and immediate cause of the downfall of the Minoan civilization. Newer research shows that this is not the case. Historians now generally point to c. 1450 or 1400 BCE as the probable dates for the destruction of the Minoans and the invasion of Crete by the Mycenaeans. However, the eruption of Thera seems to have occurred many decades or possibly even two centuries before the collapse of the Minoan civilization and the beginnings of the Mycenaean occupation.

How much of an impact did the eruption of Thera have in ending Minoan civilization then? This is the question that has plagued historians, archaeologist, and scientists for decades. Major Minoan cities, such as Akrotiri located on Santorini, were inevitably destroyed with the eruption, yet it is clear that trade and productivity continued for the Minoan people well after the fact. No bodies or human remains have been found under the ash of Akrotiri, which appears to have been abandoned before the volcanic eruption (although it is still possible the bodies are there and just have yet to be discovered). One theory suggests that years after the destruction of Akrotiri, which was a major trade-hub, the cost of transporting goods slowly increased over time as the Minoans had to spend more to maintain the same amount of trade with less shipping routes. Eventually these costs led to a complete collapse of Minoan society giving the warlike Mycenaeans an opportunity to invade Crete, possibly from the Greek mainland.

In the end the impact of Thera eruption was what caused the Minoan’s downfall, but that impact may not have been seriously felt until years later, unlike what historians had previously thought. With the burden of losing their gateway city, Akrotiri, and number of necessary ships, the now much weakened Minoans could no longer hold on as a civilization, making them easy targets for violent outside forces (the Mycenaeans) to enter and take control almost two-hundred years after the devastation of Thera.

Ship_procession_fresco,_part_1,_Akrotiri,_Greece

(“Ship procession fresco, part 1, Akrotiri, Greece” by Unknown – from Le Musée absolu, Phaidon, 10-2012. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

 Bibliography

“GreeceCrete.” Wikimedia Commons. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.

Höflmayer, Felix. “The Date Of The Minoan Santorini Eruption: Quantifying The “Offset.” Radiocarbon 54.3/4 (2012): 435-448. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.

Knappett, Carl, Ray Rivers, and Tim Evans. “The Theran Eruption And Minoan Palatial Collapse: New Interpretations Gained From Modelling The Maritime Network.” Antiquity 85.329 (2011): 1008-1023. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 Mar. 2015.

Mathisen, Ralph W. Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations: From Prehistory to 640 CE. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. Print.

“Mycenae and Minoan Crete.” Mycenae and Minoan Crete. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.

Ship Procession Fresco, Part 1, Akrotiri, Greece. Web. Le Musée Absolu.

Wilford, John Noble. Minoan Culture Survived Ancient Volcano, Evidence Shows. The New York Times, 27 Nov. 1989. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.

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Blog Posts to check out

The posts listed below all made good grades.  None of them were perfect – you’ll notice that in some the reference list was missing bits and pieces.  In others, images were not cited correctly.

There are a few factual errors scattered around. Many are longer than what I’m asking you to do.  That being said, the posts earned As or A-s

1.  https://whatsongthesirenssang.com/2013/04/25/mail-in-imperial-rome/

2.   https://whatsongthesirenssang.com/2011/11/08/encaustic-painting/

3. https://whatsongthesirenssang.com/2011/10/18/ancient-roman-legal-marriages/ 

4.  https://whatsongthesirenssang.com/2011/09/23/the-gladius/

5.  https://whatsongthesirenssang.com/2011/09/22/gladiator-training/

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Hi I’m here!

I picked the name Caesarissa because I enjoy learning Roman history and this is the name that Roman empresses were given.

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Why I choose the username Tutankhamun-not-tut-duh

The reason why I chose this username is because I used to be really into Egyptology when I was a kid. As a result of this I read anything I could get my hands on about ancient Egypt. When I heard people call King Tutankhamun King Tut it really bugged me because I always read things that used his full name.

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Why I chose a username about Pompeii

I chose my username because I think that Pompeii is absolutely fascinating. It’s cool to see a place that where time has literally stopped. Food is on the table, paintings on walls. It shows what life was like because these things have not been moved or touched since and they are “seared” in history forever.

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Assignment 1: Blog Sign-up, Dehiscens

I got my username from the Celtic god of Knowledge. It made me laugh that it was a salmon fish, and I am a swimmer. Therefore considered it to be fitting.

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The Shortest Fire Giant

The name I chose comes from a family nickname Helgy, but with a twist. Muspelheim is the Norse realm of fire, one of the nine worlds. The people of this realm are usually referred to as the Eldjötnar or Fire Giants. I thought it was funny because I am a bit on the short side.

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Ready to Go!

I’m all signed up and ready to start blogging!

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Success

I’m in and ready to post.

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