Limited evidence for sign usage in economic contexts
Metallurgy and other specialized crafts in the Neolithic of southeastern Europe are indicators of an increasing techno-economic development that, aided by the strategic location of Tordos near the sources of gold and copper, promoted extensive trading networks that could have facilitated the emergence of a system of record-keeping.
However, the Tordos signs provide only limited evidence for sign usage in economic contexts.
Many probable numerical signs, as stated above, appear on the base or adjacent to the base. Although these signs could represent a system of numbering or quantification used during their production (since incision generally took place before firing), no system is at present ascertainable. (7)
Dots and lines are generally mutually exclusive but in at least one case dots are combined with a line (Fig. 10, end of 4th row). Possibly related to these numerical indicators are certain ligatures occurring on or near the base.
appearing on the tablets (two on the Lepenski Vir stone object) may have numerical connotations, judging by their frequent appearance in the same environment (on or near the base of pots) as other probable numerical signs.
The first sign
belongs to the same category as several signs appearing only on or adjacent to pottery bases.
while it appears in sign groups (and is, indeed, a common sign of scripts elsewhere) is found only on or near the base of pottery, except for the Tartaria example.
The third sign
appears frequently in conjunction with vessel bases, but it also is quite common on spindle whorls and occurs on figurines as well; thus, it may be a numerical indicator or have other meaning, depending on the context.
Well-executed unique signs on Tordos pottery (lower vessel or base) could relate to the economics of ownership or production, and prominently displayed pictographs could function as symbols or serve to identify place names.
Nevertheless, indisputable evidence for an important economic role for sign usage is lacking.
The investigation of signs from sites other than Tordos makes even more tenuous their possible economic role. Signs on pottery are too varied to identify contents or destination of vessels, and even those few signs that may be numerical in nature are often less precise than those at Tordos.
The jumbled signs on spindle whorls would not contribute to an efficient accounting system, and the recurrent use of indistinct signs at many sites probably renders them useless for individual identifications.
Little effort appears to have been given to possible numerical marks found at various sites, e.g., Parţa ; in fact, careless techniques and haphazard demarcation are more characteristic of ritualistic marking.
Indeed, as the diffusion of sign usage proceeded, any original economic associations of the signs may have been weakened by their increasing role in religious ideology, with which they eventually were probably identified during the later phases of the Vinča culture, at least.
"Even if there was an economic motivation for the introduction of sign usage at Tordos, which has produced the best examples of signs that might represent economic functions, other sites such as Jela in the west and Divostin in the southern periphery of the Vinča culture have far less clear examples for an economic interpretation. Many possible numerical marks found at scattered sites reveal a careless technique and poor demarcation that probably reflects ritualistic marking" (Winn, 1990:276-7).
Figure 7. Parţa signs/symbols on pot bases