Bradshaw Foundation - Latest News

BRADSHAW FOUNDATION - LATEST NEWS

 

Stone Age code

02 Dec 2016
Share on Facebook

An article in New Scientist by Alison George - Code hidden in Stone Age art may be the root of human writing - reports on the painstaking investigation of Europe's cave art which has revealed 32 shapes and lines that crop up again and again and could be the world's oldest code.

Symbols of Ice Age art

Geometric forms can be found in paintings, as at Marsoulas in France. Image: Philippe Blanchot / hemis.fr / Hemis/AFP

'When she first saw the necklace, Genevieve von Petzinger feared the trip halfway around the globe to the French village of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac had been in vain. The dozens of ancient deer teeth laid out before her, each one pierced like a bead, looked roughly the same. It was only when she flipped one over that the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. On the reverse were three etched symbols: a line, an X and another line.

von Petzinger, a palaeoanthropologist from the University of Victoria in Canada, is spearheading an unusual study of cave art. Her interest lies not in the breathtaking paintings of bulls, horses and bison that usually spring to mind, but in the smaller, geometric symbols frequently found alongside them. Her work has convinced her that far from being random doodles, the simple shapes represent a fundamental shift in our ancestors' mental skills.

The claviform symbol appears in the Magdalenean caves of France & Spain. There are 15 claviform symbols in Niaux alone. 

The first formal writing system that we know of is the 5000-year-old cuneiform script of the ancient city of Uruk in what is now Iraq. But it and other systems like it - such as Egyptian hieroglyphs - are complex and didn't emerge from a vacuum. There must have been an earlier time when people first started playing with simple abstract signs. For years, von Petzinger has wondered if the circles, triangles and squiggles that humans began leaving on cave walls 40,000 years ago represent that special time in our history - the creation of the first human code.'

 
Article continues below
 

Between 2013 and 201, von Petzinger visited 52 caves in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. The symbols she found ranged from dots, lines, triangles, squares and zigzags to more complex forms like ladder shapes, hand stencils, tectiforms and penniforms. Her most startling finding was how few signs there were - just 32 in all of Europe. There was a consistency in the use of symbols.

Symbols in Niaux cave

Painted symbols in Niaux cave, France.

With von Petzinger's database, she can now see trends - signs in regions, new signs appearing, other signs disappearing. In other words, cultural changes can be discerned, pointing at migration and trade routes.

Further research: some of the most stunning cave art in Europe was only discovered in 1985, when divers found the mouth of the Cosquer cave 37 metres below the Mediterranean coastline near Marseilles in southern France. Its entrance had been submerged as sea levels rose after the last ice age. What other similar caves are waiting to be discovered? With this in mind, von Petzinger has teamed up with David Lang of OpenROV in Berkeley, California, which makes low-cost underwater robots. Next year, they plan to use them to hunt for submerged cave entrances off Spain's north coast. The region is rich in painted caves, many close to the shoreline, so it seems likely that others could be hiding below the waves. If they find any, the pair will send in the remote-controlled mini-submarines, armed with cameras, to safely explore the new sites.

Moreover, as well as the symbols painted, drawn and engraved onto the cave walls, von Petzinger plans to expand her 'Stone Age dictionary' by analysing the wealth of signs on portable objects, such as the etched deer teeth from Saint-Germain-de-la-Rivière in France.

The article describes how the research has allowed her to consider the meanings of the symbols, and possibly the origins of writing systems. von Petzinger believes the invention of the first code represents a complete shift in how our ancestors shared information. For the first time, they no longer had to be in the same place at the same time to communicate with each other, and information could survive its owners.

New Scientist, FEATURE, 9 November 2016

 

New publication - The First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the World's Oldest Symbols

by Genevieve von Petzinger

http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/news/rock_art.php?id=The-First-Signs

Geometric Signs - a new understanding:
http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/geometric_signs/index.php

To read the full article:
https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23230990-700-in-search-of-the-very-first-coded-symbols/

COMMENTS

 
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER
FACEBOOK UPDATES
** Like Page below to receive our articles on Facebook **
LATEST NEWS ARTICLES
 
LATEST ROCK ART
28 Oct 2016
LATEST CAVE PAINTINGS
02 Dec 2016
LATEST PALEOANTHROPOLOGY
LATEST ARCHAEOLOGY
LATEST ANTHROPOLOGY
LATEST WORLD HERITAGE
Bradshaw FoundationAboutiShopBook ReviewSite MapMailing ListDonateFacebookTwitterContact
If you have enjoyed visiting this section of the website please consider adding a link
Bradshaw Foundation © MMXI
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter List of Research Papers Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Join the free Mailing List Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Baja California Film Coso Range Talking Stone Film Nevada Oregon Territory Moab, Utah Clovis First Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Ian Wilson Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Avebury Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Introduction Peterborough Petroglyphs Western Canadian Rock Art Writing-On-Stone Wuikinuxv Territory Dinosaur Provincial Park Archive Index Huashan Rock Art Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Rouffignac Cave Portable Art Defining Rock Art Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Preservation & Education Dr. V. S. Wakankar Articles on India Rock Art Contemporary Art Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Scandinavian Rock Art Archive Scandinavian Introduction Alta Rock Art Norway Rock Art in Finland Tanum Rock Art Sweden Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes Other Websites Contact the Foundation