are also common Vinča-Tordos signs. Chinese scholars suggest that the signs were used for recording events or quantities and can be considered "precursors of writing".
The seemingly impressive correspondence between the Vinča-Tordos and Banpo signs does not imply diffusion of signs or sign usage; rather, it is probable that a limited range of elementary signs would be independently innovated by societies having a cultural role for sign usage. Similar signs have been noted in pre-dynastic Egypt, and in Linear A and other Mediterranean scripts (Winn 1981:246ff; 1990:280).
Pontius (1984a,b), using the Banpo evidence, has introduced an interesting hypothesis linking accurate pictorial representations of the human face with literacy skills.
In view of the relevance of this theory to the Vinča-Tordos figurines, a study of figurines from various settlements is of interest; in fact, a brief investigation by the author suggests that certain Tordos figurines provide evidence of incipient literacy, according to the Pontius hypothesis. However, this question is beyond the scope of the present study.
11. Tordos (Torma notebook)
Evidence for this study was collected in Romania in 1981 and the
manuscript was prepared by the author in 1984 in response to a publisher's
Unfortunately, following a lengthy delay, that publication did not
take place; however, when a later request was received to submit
a paper on the Vinča signs, the author wrote an article that
essentially incorporated the earlier manuscript as well as a few
script signs from the 1981 research; the expanded version was published
in 1990 in The Life of Symbols, edited by Foster and Botscharow.
Recently the author was informed that many prehistorians and archaeologists
interested in the Vinča script are not familiar with or have
been unable to locate his work, including the 1981 book, The Sign
System of the Vinča Culture, which is essentially an update
of his dissertation on the Vinča a signs, including a corpus
of 210 signs collected in 1971 from numerous sites in former Yugoslavia.
[The dissertation was published by microfilm xerography in 1973
by University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan].
The present article is intended to introduce what was "New Evidence"
in 1981; hence, it is possible that a few of the signs may have
been published during the intervening two decades. In addition,
it is apparent that many readers interested in the script have no
access to the 1990 publication of "A Neolithic Sign System in Southeastern
Europe"; therefore, relevant portions from that article have been
introduced at demarcated points in the following article. The reader
thus is given the opportunity to compare the "new" Parta evidence
(and Tordos material not included in previous analyses) with what
has previously been published about the Vinča script.
This important site, situated on the south bank of the Maros (Mures)
River, is known as Tordos in Hungarian and Turdas in Romanian.
Many of the unusual artifacts from this site are known only from
the unpublished but meticulously illustrated notebook of Zsófia
Torma. The Tordos examples herein (not previously seen nor published
by the author in his corpus of signs) are taken from this work,
which was made available to me through the kindness of N.Vlassa
of Muzeul de storie al Transilvaniei in Cluj.
An analysis and catalogue of previously collected evidence is
presented in Pre-Writing in Southeastern Europe: The Sign System
of the Vinča Culture.
Unpublished examples from Parta are included in the present study.
The Parta evidence was seen in the private collection of A. Agotha,
K. Germann and F. Resch of Timisoara, Romania. I am very grateful
for their kind and gracious assistance in providing photographs
and drawings of numerous artifacts from the site of Parta and
for permission to publish them. Although many of these finds were
retrieved from the Timis River, due to erosion of the riverbanks
on which Parta is situated, stratified excavations at the site
by Gh. Lazarovici have produced similar finds, which date to the
Vinča B period and to the later Vinča C-D sequence.
I wish to express my appreciation for the assistance of Prof.
Details regarding this object were provided by Dr. Alexander Marshack.
For further description and discussion of this rare find see Winn
1981. If the sign in B-5 (Fig. 4e) is inverted, it may be an anthropomorphic
representation; other signs recall ligatures in the Vinča
Additional commentary from the expanded 1990 version of the 1984
"New Evidence" paper is inserted throughout the remainder of this
article wherever relevant; it should be noted that these views
emerged from thoughts first expressed in Winn 1973, 1981.
The following paragraph on the limited evidence that might be
construed to represent economic uses of the signs does not appear
in Winn 1990, as by then the author had abandoned any consideration
that the script signs were related to economic usage. In 1984,
however, many prehistorians and archaeologists still considered
the signs to be at most simple potmarks or possibly a method of
enumerating. This paragraph nevertheless is of interest in documenting
the history and development of ideas about the Vinča script.
Note, however, that this article was formulated in the mid 1980's;
recent research may have produced such links
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