Thursday, February 18, 2010

Was this the first written language?

Those spectacular cave paintings in France may not have been the most spectacular things in the caves. Particular shapes, mostly simple geometric icons like a semicircle, appear on cave walls over and over again. By an odd coincidence, there are 26 such repeating shapes. Writing is thought to have appeared only about 5,000 years ago: if this set of symbols is in fact a form of written language, it would push that barrier tens of thousands of years into prehistory.

2 comments:

Paul Pursglove said...

This is not a new discussion. I looked at such symbols in the early 1970's, but did not have the impetus to do much about it. The symbols were noted briefly in the 1930's, but this work is the first published analysis. It is about time too. symbolic representations and records are as old as Homo sapiens. The question that needs to be answered in this case is - how do we define writing?

Matt Bille said...

Thanks to Paul Pursglove for adding some historical context to these discoveries. Wha is writing? I'll leave that to the experts, but it's hard not to think of this as at least a proto-language.