Researchers have found a writing system used 20,000 years ago, which pre-dates other token-based systems that appeared in the Near Eastern Neolithic period by about 10,000 years.
The markings consisted of arrangements of lines, dots, and other shapes, but their purpose was not evident till the new study. The markings are not a report of speech along the lines of the cuneiform and pictographic writing systems that occurred in Sumer around 3,400 BCE. As such, the experimenters consider the markings to be a proto-writing system, with the markings on the cave pictures used to reference a calendar.
Co-author of the paper, Paul Pettitt says “The study shows that Ice Age hunter-gathers were the first to use a systematic calendar and marks to record information about major ecological events within that calendar. In turn we’re able to show that these people, who left a legacy of spectacular art in the caves of Lascaux and Altamira, also left a record of early timekeeping that would eventually become commonplace among our species.”
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