- BBC News World
It has long been known that Ice Age hunter-gatherer cave paintings in Europe, which have at least 20,000 years oldhave some meaning, but had not been deciphered.
Over the centuries these paintings of animals such as reindeer, fish and cattle have been found in caves all over Europe.
But archaeologists didn’t know what the dots and other markings on the paintings meant.
Now British furniture curator and antiques dealer Ben Bacon has concluded that the marks on thepaintings are related with the cycles moles and the life reproductive of the animals.
Bacon, originally from London, spent countless hours of his free time analyzing the paintings to decipher their meaning.
This archeology buff reached out to academics from Durham University and University College London to present his theoriesand these encouraged him to continue investigating.
Bacon spent numerous hours online and at the British Library looking at images of cave paintings and “accumulated as much data as possible and started looking for repeating patterns.”
In particular, he examined a “Y” sign that appears in some paintings, which he thought might be a symbol of “giving birth” because it showed one line growing from another.
Together with the academics, by analyzing the birth cycles of similar current animals, they deduced that the number of marks on the cave paintings is a record, by lunar month, of the animals’ mating seasons.
The team’s findings were published in the Cambridge Archeological Journal.
These brands are found in more than 600 Ice Age images across Europe.
The dot Sequences, lines and other brands they appear alongside depictions of species such as reindeer, wild horses, fish, bison, and an extinct form of cattle called an aurochs.
Curiosity didn’t kill the cat
“The meaning of the markings within these drawings has always intrigued me, so I began trying to decode them, using a similar approach to what others have taken to understand an early form of Greek texts,” Bacon explained.
“Using information and images from rock art, available at the British Library and on the InternetI accumulated as much data as possible and started looking for repeating patterns,” he said.
Bacon recounted that once he found what he believed to be clues, he contacted friends and senior university academics. “Her experience of him was instrumental in proving my theory,” he admitted.
“It was surreal to sit in the British Library and slowly figure out what people were saying 20,000 years ago. The hours of hard work certainly paid off.“, he confessed.
Professors Paul Pettitt and Robert Kentridge of Durham University have worked together to develop the field of visual paleopsychology, the scientific research in psychology that underpins the earliest development of human visual culture.
“The results show that Ice Age hunter-gatherers were the first to use a systematic calendar and marks to record information about major ecological events within that calendar,” Pettitt said.
For his part, Kentridge added: “The implications are that Ice Age hunter-gatherers did not simply live in their presentInstead, they recorded memories of when past events occurred and used them to anticipate when similar events would occur in the future, an ability memory researchers call mental time travel.”
University College London Honorary Professor Tony Freeth was another expert the hobbyist approached with his hypothesis.
“I was surprised when Ben came to me with his idea that the number of dots or lines on the animals represented the lunar month of key events in the life cycle of animals“, he acknowledged.
The team, which also included independent researchers such as Azadeh Khatiri and retired history professor Clive James Palmer, hopes to make new findings.
“As we dig deeper, what we’re finding is that our ancestors are much more like uswhat we thought previously: these people, separated from us by many millennia, are suddenly much closer,” Bacon noted.
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