Upper Paleolithic Proto Writing

Chauvet Pont d’Arc the discovery of 36,000-year-old art

An article published in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal posits that lines, dots and “Y” symbols written on paleolithic cave art images represent a time keeping system.

In the article the authors argue that statistical analysis of over 700 paleolithic images shows a relationship between dots, lines and “Y” shaped images on or near images of animals and times of the animals breeding or migration.

dots on Chauvet horse and lions
A portion of the Horse Panel in Chauvet Cave shows red marks on both a horse and lion.

The image above is one of the examples the authors use to illustrate their point. In it you can see red marks added to the horse in the bottom center. To our eyes, the red marks are made on top of the existing horse image. The Eurasian Cave Lion depicted in this panel also has five red marks added.

We do know that paleolithic artists were exacting observers of their natural world. It is not surprising that they -or later people- would have also recorded the animals’ movements and breeding. What is mind bending is that a written time keeping system might have been invented over twenty thousand years ago and been in use for more than ten thousand years.

Read the full Cambridge Archaeological Journal article here.