CS 100B INTRODUCTION TO MEDIAHISTORY
Dr. Martin Morris
The Media in Early Civilization
Denise Schmandt-Besserat, “The Earliest Precursor of Writing”
Symbols are things whose special meaning allows us to conceive, express, and communicate
— human beings move from dealing with the objective world to opening up the space of
the imagination by recording ideas.
60,000 – 25,000 years ago: Neanderthal’s red ochre—body painting?
— Funerary paraphernalia, flowers or antlers deposited in burial site. Ritual functions?
Notched bones: first evidence of the modification of materials in order to translate ideas.
28,00012,000 years ago: A new category of iconic symbols: images etched in stone, cave
paintings, notched bones
This is the first step in "data processing": tallies
Objectivity in information—information is recorded on an object
Three limitations of tallies
Agriculture and its settled communities bring forth a new form, a new medium: tokens
o A conceptual leap. Why?
o Not just quantitative, but qualitative data is recorded
Turning point: abstraction of pictographs
Tokens are a link between the t