University of Victoria anthropologists studying caves in Europe
Deep inside the Oxocelhaya cave in southern France, Canadian anthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger points at a small red marking barely noticeable on a rock wall.
It looks like someone deliberately drew an X using two inverted V's. The faint sign is partly covered with calcite, evidence it was traced a very long time ago.
Incredibly, it's been sitting there since the Ice Age, some 10,000 to 40,000 years ago.
While cave paintings have long been cited as early evidence of human art, anthropologists are now taking a closer look at the significance of strange abstract signs – including spirals, ovals, handprints and intersecting lines – found alongside prehistoric rock art depicting animals.
|New research suggests that markings on cave walls such as these ones from El Castillo in Spain may have been part of a graphic communication system from the Ice Age, long before writing was invented. (Dillon von Petzinger)|
Von Petzinger, a PhD student at the University of Victoria who has been studying prehistoric signs in European caves for a decade, says they suggest "the first glimmers of graphic communication" among human beings before the written word.
There was "an incredibly pivotal moment in human history when we went from spoken language to making these durable marks, which could then be communicated to people who were outside of the physical realm of speech distance," says von Petzinger.
If true, this represents a major milestone in the evolution of our species, says von Petzinger. Think of it as an ancient precursor to Twitter tens of thousands of years before writing was invented by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia in approximately 3,000 B.C. [...] cbc.ca/