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Michael Hays illustrates
The History of Counting

The History of Counting

by Denise Schmandt-Besserat
illustrated by Michael Hays
William Morrow 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.