Friday, November 27, 2015

Symbols of Archaic Rock Shelters

Written language didn't suddenly appear. Thousands of years before the first writing systems, our rock-sheltered ancestors scrawled geometric signs on the walls of the homes.

Paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger has studied and codified these ancient markings and finds great uniformity, especially among the earliest symbols. Her findings suggest that graphic communication was widely used by archaic peoples.

Genevieve von Petzinger has been studying cave symbols in 200 caves and rock shelters. Some symbols date to 40,000 years ago. She has catalogued 32 symbols found in ancient caves all over Ice Age Europe. One set of five symbols – "II ^ III X II" – is especially common.

Many of these archaic symbols are also found among archaic peoples of Africa, Indonesia and Australia. The red dot and the red hand are among the oldest cave symbols. These are most often made with red ocher.

Many of the swirls, crosses, circles, crosshatches and open angle symbols found in France and Spain are found in far earlier rock shelters in Africa. For example, the open-angle symbol can be seen on engravings at Blombos cave in South Africa, where artifacts over 75,000 years have been found.

77,000 year old stone found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa

These 65,000 year old ostrich egg shells with geometric designs demonstrate symbolic communication among paleolithic peoples in Africa.

The markings on the Ostrich egg shells are very similar to the markings on this shell found on Java in the late 1800s appears. It was carved 500,000 years ago.

Some of the most significant geometric designs and symbols are the circle, the red dot, the X, groups of parallel lines, and a serpent image. Many of these symbols appear to represent a complex of related ideas that embody a cultural concept. This was true among Abraham's ancestors. The Y is an example. It represents a cluster of related ideas including:

the appointed ruler
the ruler's authority
the ruler's territory
the ruler's people
the ruler's resources such as his herds and water sources
the ruler's staff or knobstick


Other pre-Abrahamic symbols include V and T. The T represents the solar arc from east to west and the crossing from one side to another, as in crossing a river. It also is a symbol of blood in human form (ha'dam, adam, 'dam), represented by this later Nilotic symbol of T-yet (shown right).

Related reading: Early Written SignsOldest Confirmed Cave Art; Mining Blood; Rock Art in Sudan and Somalia; The Urheimat of the Canaanite Y

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