Article ID: CBB694933661

Numeracy at the dawn of writing: Mesopotamia and beyond (2022)


Numeracy and writing constitute different phenomena, whose paths of formation often appear intertwined. Here we reassess the theory that numeracy evolved universally from a concrete to an abstract concept of number, and that that shift is correlated with the invention of writing. First, we gather contemporary linguistic data and early Mesopotamian epigraphic evidence that indicates that the ‘concrete’ vs. ‘abstract’ dichotomy is not useful to understand the emergence of numbers. Then, we discuss evidence from other regions where writing was probably invented independently, in order to investigate the conceptualization and formation of early numerical notations. Résumé La numératie et l'écriture constituent des phénomènes différents, dont les chemins de formation apparaissent souvent inextricablement liés. Nous réévaluons ici la théorie selon laquelle la numératie est universellement passée d'un concept concret à un concept abstrait de nombre et que ce changement est corrélé à l'invention de l'écriture. Premièrement, nous rassemblons des données linguistiques contemporaines et des données épigraphiques mésopotamiennes anciennes qui indiquent que la dichotomie « concret » vs. « abstraite » n'est pas utile pour comprendre l'émergence des nombres. Ensuite, nous abordons des données provenant d'autres régions où l'écriture a probablement été inventée de manière indépendante, afin d'enquêter sur la nature de sa relation avec la numératie telle qu'elle est représentée par les premières notations numériques.

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Authors & Contributors
Arnold, Oliver A
Dolven, Jeff
Netz, Reviel
Pellatt, Valerie
Cuomo, Serafina
Porter, Anne
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
History of Science
British Society for the History of Mathematics Bulletin
History and Philosophy of Logic
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
Oxford University Press
Edwin Mellen Press
Cambridge University Press
Columbia University
University of Delaware
Princeton University
Science and society
Number theory; number concept
Cicero, Marcus Tullius
Boas, Franz
R. B. Le Page
Bowditch, Nathaniel
Quine, Willard Van Orman
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
18th century
17th century
16th century
Middle and Near East
Uruk (extinct city)
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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