We're all so used to reading and writing that we take it for granted as a staple part of human life. Most of us have likely never stopped to think about how this written language came to be and what it had once evolved from. Cave markings found in France, dating back 20,000 years, are believed by many to be an example of the first ever written language in human history. A new study in the Cambridge Archeology Journal investigates this further...
Over the past few decades, researchers have spent countless hours studying Paleolithic art found in the caves of Europe. For the most part, it has involved pictures of animals and handprints, but more recently, archeologists have been researching the more peculiar shapes alongside these images. This new study, published today (January 5), theorizes that the lines, dots, and Y-shaped symbols represent an advanced writing system that the people used to track the seasonal behaviors and mating rituals of local animal species.
Because Paleolithic humans were hunter-gatherers are their core and meat eaters, the study theorizes that there is a direct correlation between the animals' seasonal herding times and the best chance of slaughter. "It follows that knowledge of the timing of migrations, mating, and birthing would be a central concern to Upper Paleolithic behavior," Bennett Bacon wrote. Noticing that there were never more than thirteen dots in one sequence, they "hypothesize that sequences are conveying information about their associated animal taxa in units of months." Analyzing over 800 mark sequences along with the associated animals and their known mating months backed up this theory. "The ability to assign abstract signs to phenomena in the world," they wrote, "to record past events and predict future events, was a profound intellectual achievement."
While these conclusions appear exciting and informative at first glance, numerous researchers are not so impressed, believing these scientists have misinterpreted these lines and shapes. Talking to LiveScience.com, Melanie Chang, a Portland State University paleoanthropologist, put forward her opinions on the study to which she had no contribution. She explained that while she agrees "Upper Palaeolithic people had the cognitive capacity to write and to keep records of time," she remained skeptical because the study's "hypotheses are not well-supported by their results, and they also do not address alternative interpretations of the marks they analyzed." Stay tuned as further studies develop.