We had planned a short, 90-second video of Austinite Denise Schmandt-Besserat explaining the origins of writing — which she discovered 40 years ago — but we couldn’t trim it down under 4.29 minutes.

Denise Schmandt-Besserat. Photo: Stephan Spillman / American-Statesman.


It really isn’t that long and it does carefully show the steps by which writing came about from clay token “counters,” then marks on clay envelopes to indicate the tokens inside and, from there, Sumerian cuneiform.