Sign of the Times

A regular system of 26 symbols thought to be the origins of written language crop up in stone carvings throughout the prehistoric world – now experts are trying to decipher their meaning.

A regular system of 26 symbols thought to be the origins of written language crop up in stone carvings throughout the prehistoric world – now experts are trying to decipher their meaning. "Some wonder whether [the symbols] originated with early humans as they migrated across the globe out of Africa some 70,000 years ago. From the walls of the Great Hall of the Bulls, Lascaux II cave, Dordogne, France to rock paintings in Chobe National Park, Botswana,. to caves and canyon walls in Australia, central Africa, Europe, India and South and North America, breathtakingly beautiful Stone Age paintings have revealed strange squiggles, semicircles, lines, dots, spirals, hands and zigzags that may hold the key to understanding early forms of human communication. The zigzag lines for example didn't emerge until 20,000 years ago and by 13,000 years ago had disappeared. A similarly shaped snaking form existed from 30,000 years ago but also died off around 13,000 years ago. A multidisciplinary team of scientists at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico is working toward reconstructing the mother of all languages. Since all representatives of the species Homo sapiens presumably share a common origin, it would be natural to suppose that all human languages also go back to some common source."

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