• Fri. Mar 31st, 2023

Archaeologists uncover a strange 42,000-year-old proto-writing system!


Feb 5, 2023

In at the very least 400 European caves comparable to Lascaux, Chauvet and Altamira, Higher Paleolithic people drew, painted and engraved non-figurative indicators from at the very least 42,000 years in the past and figurative pictures — notably animals – from at the very least 37,000 years in the past. Since their discovery 150 years in the past, the aim or which means of those non-figurative indicators has eluded researchers. New analysis by impartial researchers and their skilled colleagues from College Faculty London and the College of Durham suggests how three of essentially the most incessantly occurring indicators — the road ‘|’, the dot ‘•’, and the ‘Y’ — functioned as items of communication. The authors exhibit that when present in shut affiliation with pictures of animals the road ‘|’ and dot ‘•’ represent numbers denoting months, and type constituent elements of a neighborhood phenological/meteorological calendar starting in spring and recording time from this level in lunar months; in addition they exhibit that the ‘Y’ signal, one of the crucial incessantly occurring indicators in Paleolithic non-figurative artwork, has the which means ‘To Give Beginning.’

Examples of animal depictions related to sequences of dots/strains. © Picture credit score: Bacon et al., doi: 10.1017/S0959774322000415.

Round 37,000 years in the past people transitioned from marking summary pictures comparable to handprints, dots and rectangles on cave partitions to drawing, portray and engraving figurative artwork.

These pictures, whether or not created on rock surfaces within the open air, in caves, or carved and engraved onto moveable supplies, have been nearly completely of animals, primarily herbivorous prey essential to survival within the Pleistocene Eurasian steppes.

Normally it’s simple to establish the species depicted, and sometimes the traits they exhibit at specific occasions of yr.

In Lascaux round 21,500 years in the past, physique shapes and pelage particulars have been used to convey details about the sequence of rutting of a number of prey species on the cave’s partitions.

Alongside these pictures, units of summary marks, notably sequences of vertical strains and dots, ‘Y’ shapes and varied different marks are widespread all through the European Higher Paleolithic, occurring both alone or adjoining to and superimposed upon animal depictions, as has lengthy been acknowledged.

Within the new research, impartial researcher Ben Bacon and his colleagues discovered that these marks file data numerically and reference a calendar, slightly than recording speech.

The markings due to this fact can’t be known as ‘writing’ in the identical sense as pictographic and cuneiform methods of writing that emerged in Sumer from 3,400 BCE onwards.

The authors check with the markings as a ‘proto-writing’ system, which pre-dates different token-based methods that emerged throughout the Close to Japanese Neolithic interval by at the very least 10,000 years.

“The which means of the markings inside these drawings has all the time intrigued me so I set about making an attempt to decode them, utilizing an identical method that others took to understanding an early type of Greek textual content,” Bacon mentioned.

“Utilizing data and imagery of cave artwork accessible by way of the British Library and on the Web, I amassed as a lot knowledge as potential and started in search of repeating patterns.”

“Because the research progressed, I reached out to pals and senior college lecturers, whose experience have been essential to proving my concept.”

Examples of the ‘Y’ sign in sequences associated with animal depictions. Image credit: Bacon et al., doi: 10.1017/S0959774322000415.
Examples of the ‘Y’ sign up sequences related to animal depictions. © Picture credit score: Bacon et al., doi: 10.1017/S0959774322000415.

The scientists used the start cycles of equal animals as we speak as a reference level to work out that the variety of marks related to Ice Age animals was a file, by lunar month, of once they have been mating.

They labored out {that a} ‘Y’ signal used stood for ‘giving start’ and located a correlation between the numbers of marks, the place of the ‘Y’ and the months wherein fashionable animals mate and start respectively.

“Lunar calendars are tough as a result of there are just below twelve and a half lunar months in a yr, so they don’t match neatly right into a yr,” mentioned College Faculty London’s Professor Tony Freeth.

“Consequently, our personal fashionable calendar has all however misplaced any hyperlink to precise lunar months.”

“Within the Antikythera Mechanism, they used a complicated 19-year mathematical calendar to resolve the incompatibility of the yr and the lunar month — inconceivable for Paleolithic peoples.”

“Their calendar needed to be a lot easier. It additionally needed to be a ‘meteorological calendar,’ tied to adjustments in temperature, not astronomical occasions such because the equinoxes.”

“With these rules in thoughts Ben and I slowly devised a calendar which helped to clarify why the system that Ben had uncovered was so common throughout vast geography and extraordinary time-scales.”

“The research exhibits that Ice Age hunter-gatherers have been the primary to make use of a scientific calendar and marks to file details about main ecological occasions inside that calendar,” mentioned Durham College’s Professor Paul Pettitt.

“In flip we’re in a position to present that these folks, who left a legacy of spectacular artwork within the caves of Lascaux and Altamira, additionally left a file of early timekeeping that will ultimately turn into commonplace amongst our species.”

“The implications are that Ice Age hunter-gatherers didn’t merely stay of their current, however recorded reminiscences of the time when previous occasions had occurred and used these to anticipate when related occasions would happen sooner or later, a capability that reminiscence researchers name psychological time-travel,” mentioned Durham College’s Professor Robert Kentridge.

The researchers hope that deciphering extra points of the proto-writing system will enable them to develop an understanding of which of data early people valued.

“As we probe deeper into their world, what we’re discovering is that these historic ancestors are much more like us than we had beforehand thought,” Bacon mentioned. “These folks, separated from us by many millennia, are instantly lots nearer.”

The workforce’s paper was published in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A note to our visitors

This website has updated its privacy policy in compliance with changes to European Union data protection law, for all members globally. We’ve also updated our Privacy Policy to give you more information about your rights and responsibilities with respect to your privacy and personal information. Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our updated privacy policy.