Hunter-gatherers used the lunar calendar as early as 20,000 years ago

(ORDO NEWS) — The authors of a new study claim that the incomprehensible dashes in the drawings of the Upper Paleolithic are proto-writing that helped our ancestors survive in the conditions of the Ice Age.

To date, rock paintings of different periods have been found in about 400 caves in Europe and the British Isles. The most ancient of them are dated by the age of about 42 thousand years.

Basically, these are abstract figures incomprehensible to us. There are still some older symbolic drawings attributed to the Neanderthals, but their status as paintings today is still not clear.

We can confidently say that about 37 thousand years ago, the inhabitants of Europe began to draw animals.

Graceful horses and handprints are the picture we usually associate with Paleolithic cave art. But not everything is so simple.

Hunter gatherers used the lunar calendar as early as 20 000 years ago 2
What information do these lines carry, drawn or engraved next to the images of animals?

About 20 thousand years ago, people living in Europe began to supplement animal drawings with incomprehensible lines, dots and Y-shaped symbols.

The authors of a study suggested that these seemingly abstract dots and lines, located next to the images of animals, are in fact a complex system of proto-writing that shows people of that time understanding of the breeding seasons of important native species.

The people of the European Upper Paleolithic were hunter-gatherers who ate a lot of the meat of animal species such as horses, deer and bison.

When these animals seasonally gathered in herds, they were vulnerable to humans. The ability to calculate breeding seasons in such a situation became very useful.

The authors of the new study believe that hunter-gatherers not only possessed it, but also knew how to record the results of their calculations.

Looking at the total number of signs (dots and lines) found in hundreds of caves, the researchers found that they are all divided into series, and none of the series contains more than 13 signs, which corresponds to 13 lunar months in each year.

“We assume that these series convey information about the behavior of animals in certain months,” the authors write.

They note that spring “with its obvious signals of the end of winter and the corresponding migrations of fauna to breeding grounds” could be the starting point for the lunar calendar.

In total, the authors studied more than 800 such series of marks that surrounded the images of a particular animal.

They found a strong correlation between the number of tags and the lunar months in which specific animal species mate, they said.

Developing their hypothesis, the scientists focused on the Y-shaped sign, which, in their opinion, refers to a specific event in the animal’s life cycle.

A similar statistical analysis confirms their conclusion that the location of the Y-shaped sign in each series of signs signals the season of birth in one or another animal species.

Hunter gatherers used the lunar calendar as early as 20 000 years ago 3
The Y-shaped symbol, according to the authors of the work, marks the month of the birth of the animal

In addition, the authors believe that some signs could carry information about the likelihood and frequency of a particular weather event, such as snowfalls or thunderstorms.

“The ability to assign abstract signs to the phenomena of the surrounding world, fix past events and predict future events was a profound intellectual achievement,” the paper says.

The researchers also suggest that such a writing system can be interpreted as a means of writing, or perhaps a proto-writing system.

If their conclusions are correct, then these are examples of the earliest form of writing in Homo sapiens.

In conclusion, they note that a lot of work remains to be done in the study of wall art – there are still signs that have not yet been deciphered.

The conclusions of the authors of the work, at least in relation to proto-writing, seem somewhat premature.

At the same time, ethnographers recorded the presence of a lunar calendar among a number of hunter-gatherer tribes of a time close to ours. So why shouldn’t he exist in Paleolithic Europe?

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