Monday, January 9, 2023

Decoding Cave Drawings

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Archeology, History of Science, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

Ben Bacon, a London furniture conservator and amateur archeologist, has "teamed up with...(a) professor from Durham University and a professor from University College, London, in the writing of a paper* about the meaning of markings long-observed on cave drawings "dating back at least 20,000 years." Mr. Bacon whose full first name is Bennett, is the lead author. 

The BBC reported on the research in a recent, well illustrated article. That those markings meant something had "long been suspected" and now it appears "that the markings related to animal life cycles." 

Mr. Bacon earned a degree in English but decided on a different career. The BBC reported on what he said about the amateur side of his career.  "The meaning of the markings within these drawings has always intrigued me so I set about trying to decode them, using a similar approach that others took to understanding an early form of Greek text.

"Using information and imagery of cave art available via the British Library and on the internet, I amassed as much data as possible and began looking for repeating patterns.

"I reached out to friends and senior university academics, whose expertise was critical to proving my theory.

"It was surreal to sit in the British Library and slowly work out what people 20,000 years ago were saying but the hours of hard work were certainly worth it."

There is a discussion at the end of the BBC report about "visual paleopsychology," a field new to me, a comment by researcher Tony Freeth, University College, London on his first meeting with Mr. Bacon, and Mr. Bacon's plans for what he hopes to do next.

*The scientific article is titled "An Upper Palaeolithic Proto-writing System and Phenological Calendar" and was published in the Cambridge Archeological Journal and may be read in its entirety. I strongly urge the reading of the abstract which includes a description of the most frequently occurring signs, the discussion of the author's hypothesis (scroll down) and how it was tested, and the section titled "Discussion and conclusions: a phenological/meteorological calendar, but is it writing?" 

The paper also includes quite a few images of the markings.
If you are interested in learning more about phenology, the study of periodic events in organism's life cycles, see the Wiki entry.


No comments:

Post a Comment