Denise Scmandt-Besserat/ University of Texas at Austin

Over 5,000 years, from the mid-eighth millennium B.C. to the late third millennium B.C., writing evolved from simple signs denoting objects to a complex symbol-system capable of encoding human language. In the earliest stages, tokens of different shapes (shown here) represented various goods in a one-to-one correspondence; one cone-shaped token, for example, represented one animal.