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TED: Why Are These 32 Symbols Found in Caves All Over Europe | Genevieve von Petzinger


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Is human history older than we think? Genevieve von Petzinger is an anthropologist from the University of Victoria. She has studied hundreds of markings from 300 sites in addition to personally visiting and examining 52 caves where ancient humans had lived located in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France. She has collected markings in a database and looked for repeated use of the same symbol as well as for patterns of use for the different symbols. 30 symbols that were used repeatedly at these hundreds of sites, and this took place over a period as long as 30,000 years.

Written language, the hallmark of human civilization, didn’t just suddenly appear one day. Thousands of years before the first fully developed writing systems, our ancestors scrawled geometric signs across the walls of the caves they sheltered in. Paleoanthropologist and rock art researcher Genevieve von Petzinger has studied and codified these ancient markings in caves across Europe. The uniformity of her findings suggest that graphic communication, and the ability to preserve and transmit messages beyond a single moment in time, may be much older than we think.

 

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