Literacy in India

Lakshmi Srinivas lsrinivas at YAHOO.COM
Sat Mar 25 15:30:29 UTC 2000

--- Stephen Hodge

> Does literacy
> presuppose numeracy or
> vice versa ?

D. Schmandt-Besserat, talking of clay tokens of the
ancient Near East (which were used as counters and
tallies) in her Before Writing (Univ of Texas Press,
Austin, 1992, p. 195), says "They were the precursor
of writing and document communication in prehistory.
They were the precursor of numerals and shed light on
the origin of mathematics".

In what follows she asks certain questions. "The
tokens also raise new questions concerning the essence
of writing. Was the first script of the Near East
unique in deriving from a counting device? Or is
literacy universally tied to numeracy? Is numeracy a
prerequisite for literacy?"

In answer she quotes the following verse by Thomas
Astle and concludes the book :-)

> From whence did the wond'rous
   mystic art arise
Of painting speech,
   and speaking to the eye
That we by tracing magic
   lines are taught
How both to colour, and
   embody thought?

Just fyi, in one of her earlier and shorter versions
of her thesis published in a Scientific American
special number publ. 1984, she says that tokens were
found in Chanhu Daro. You may want to check EJH Mackay
for this.

It appears that Near Eastern archaeology has not
turned up even "one example of tokens regarded in the
hypothesis as prototypes of logograms other than

We aren't any forr'arder, are we?


Thanks and Warm Regards,


Do You Yahoo!?
Talk to your friends online with Yahoo! Messenger.

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list