It points out that when writing began in Mesopotamia it was not, as previously thought, a sudden and spontaneous invention.
In order to make my case I compare and contrast compositions — the way designs are organized to decorate a vessel — before and after the invention of writing, ca. I show that the former paintings consisted mostly of repeated motifs but that figures interacting in narrative scenes appeared among the latter.
I conclude that, by borrowing communication strategies from writing, images could be made to tell a story. The most common technique consisted of painting designs on the buff clay background of the vessels using a slip that turned red, orange, purple, brown, or black according to the firing conditions.
Jars and pitchers were Figure 1. Geometric composition on a vessel from Samarra. Friezes filled the upper part of the high vessels leaving the lower part bare, Fig.
Bowl, from Samarra, Mesopotamia. The Geometric Compositions Geometric designs organized in multiple friezes constituted the most usual prehistoric vessel decoration. High vases featured several consecutive rows of varying patterns, and shallow vessels displayed concentric registers around a central motif.
For example, a vase from the site of Samarra, Mesopotamia, ca. As a rule, each register featured one motif repeated as many times as necessary to go around the circumference of the decorated vessel. The repetitive motifs were drawn from a rich repertory which included circles, squares and rectangles, ladders, herringbones, festoons, checker-boards, crisscross, braids, vertical and diagonal bands, quatrefoils, swastikas, eggs and dots, and crosses, to name only a few.
Among them, triangles were perhaps the most frequently used.
They were treated in many ways; outlined, painted solid, or filled with stippling or crosshatching. Triangles were shown hanging, Fig. Lines, the simplest form of geometric design, played a particularly important role in the painting compositions of the preliterate period, where they were used in many ways.
For instance, vessels might be decorated with a single line or sets of parallel lines highlighting the lip, the base, or the greatest diameter.
Straight, twisted, wavy, broken and zigzag lines were also among the frequently used patterns filling the decorative registers. Figures and illustrate how lines, either singly or in sets of 2 and 3, defined the space allocated to each of the motifs and clearly separated them from one another. The Theriomorphic Compositions Figure 4.
Animal composition on a Susa I tumbler. After the geometric patterns, the animal designs were the second most popular in Near Eastern pottery decoration, especially in Iran.
Many animal species were represented on the vessels, including birds, fish, dogs, felines, bulls, deer, goats and donkeys. But, among them, the ibex, shown with huge sweeping horns, was by far the animal most often depicted.
One of themost celebrated and most successful Near Eastern animal compositions of the preliterate period is painted on a remarkable tumbler from Susa, present-day Iran, dated ca.
Thirteen lines of varying thickness structure the composition showing a great concern for symmetry. Note how the thick band around the lip echoes that at the base.
The three lines below the birds correspond to a parallel set of three lines below the ibex. Finally, a pair of lines of different thickness appears in reversed order above and below the dogs to create a dynamic visual rhythm while the ibexes are boxed in dramatic frames.
Often one animal frieze was just one element in a large geometric composition. As illustrated on a vessel from Moussian,  Iran, ca. Line of Ibexes from a jar at Tepe Moussian, in J. Lampre, Memoires de la Delegation en Perse, Vol. The Anthropomorphic Compositions Figure 6. There are fewer vessels decorated with human figures than those with animal motifs.
In other words, the anthropomorphic compositions appear least frequently in the pottery paintings of the preliterate period. Those extant followed the same principles as described above for the theriomorphic compositions, i.
The figures were all identical, sharing the same size, position, and gesture. On a vessel from Moussian, the figures are shown frontally and holding hands like cut-out paper dolls.Whereas Saussure had insisted that language is 'a form, not a substance', Hjelmslev's framework allows us to analyse texts according to their various dimensions and .
In her most recent book, When Writing Met Art (), Schmandt-Besserat investigated the impact of literacy on visual art. She showed that, before writing, art of the ancient Near East mostly consisted of repetitive motifs.
Writing is a medium of human communication that represents language and emotion with signs and symbols. In most languages, writing is a complement to speech or spoken regardbouddhiste.comg is not a language, but a tool used to make languages be read.
Within a language system, writing relies on many of the same structures as speech, such as vocabulary, grammar, and semantics, with the added. The multipart painted composition, the unusual burial, the complex tokens, all suggest circumstances that are not yet understood (Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Before Writing, II, A Catalogue of Near Eastern Tokens, Austin , pp, types 13,14, ).
Recent scholars of the history of writing describe what was first and foremost an administrative tool. According to their ‘administrative hypothesis’, writing was invented so that early states could track people, land and economic production, and elites could sustain their power. The multipart painted composition, the unusual burial, the complex tokens, all suggest circumstances that are not yet understood (Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Before Writing, II, A Catalogue of Near Eastern Tokens, Austin , pp, types 13,14, ). David Graeber currently holds the position of Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths University London. Prior to this he was an associate professor of anthropology at Yale University. He is the author of ‘Debt: The First 5, Years’ which is available from Amazon. Interview conducted by Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer based in Dublin, Ireland.
The history of writing traces the development of expressing language by letters or other marks and also the studies and descriptions of these developments.. In the history of how writing systems have evolved over in different human civilizations, more complete writing systems were preceded by proto-writing, systems of ideographic or early mnemonic symbols.
Schmandt Besserat Before Writing An Essay. The Evolution of Writing Denise Schmandt–Besserat Writing was used exclusively for accounting until the third millennium BC, consisting of clay tokens of multiple shapes (Schmandt–Besserat ) Moos, M.
A. ed., () Marshall McLuhan Essays, Media Research. Before Writing, Vol. I .