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The History of Counting Cover art by Michael Hays ©2010

Denise Schmandt-Besserat ia an archaeologist whose specialty is the Middle East. A native of France, she studied at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris and is now professor of art and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. Her major publications include How Writing Came About and Before Writing, a groundbreaking work on the origins of writing and counting. Among her many prestigious academic credentials, Schmandt-Besserat has served on the governing board of the Archaeological Institute of America.

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The History of Counting

by Denise Schmandt-Besserat
illustrated by Michael Hays

Harper Collins 1999

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Most of us take these ten numbers–and our decimal counting system–for grated. Did you know they had to be invented?

Drawing on twenty years research in the Middle East, eminent archaeologist Denise Schmandt-Besserat traces the history of counting. Beginning with the numberless counting systems of simple societies, she shows how the rise of cities made more precise methods of counting necessary. Next the author explains how past cultures adapted and changed earlier counting systems to fit their own needs. Finally Schmandt-Besserat focuses on our modern decimal system and tells how it, too, evolved.

The History of Counting is an engrossing introduction to one of humankind’s most important inventions.

The History of Counting art by Michael Hays ©2010