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Abstract Thinking

32 Symbols found in Ancient Caves from Europe

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“I often find myself wondering what drove these people to go so deep to brave dangerous and narrow passageways to leave their mark?”

Engraved figures from Grotta dell’Addaura in Sicily, from TEDx Conference with Genevieve von Petzinger (2015)

“Geometric signs have long been considered as important, and no cave art researcher has neglected them, at least since Leroi-Gourhan’s seminal work in the mid-1960’s. What is new and exciting in Genevieve von Petzinger’s research is, thanks to the possibilities of the computer, she has completed a data base of the geometric signs from 146 painted caves, attempting to analyse their relationships to one another.” (Bradshaw Foundation)

“The repetition of the same signs, for so long, and at so many sites tells us that the artists were making intentional choices. If we’re talking about geometric shapes, with specific, culturally recognized, agreed-upon meanings, than we could very well be looking at one of the oldest systems of graphic communication in the world. (…)

The oldest systems of graphic communication in the world — Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, the earliest Chinese script, all emerged between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, with each coming into existence from an earlier protosystem made up of counting marks and pictographic representations, where the meaning and the image were the same. So a picture of a bird would really have represented that animal. It’s only later that we start to see these pictographs become more stylized, until they almost become unrecognizable and that we also start to see more symbols being invented to represent all those other missing words in language — things like pronouns, adverbs, adjectives.” (Genevieve von Petzinger)

Evolution of pictographic representations, from TEDx Conference with Genevieve von Petzinger (2015)
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The images on this page are not authored by Lines & Marks. They are shared under “fair use” for non-profit, educational and reference purposes, and may be subject to copyright. If for any reason this status is contested, notify us and we will remove the image(s) immediately. All other, © Lines & Marks, 2015.

“Cave of Forgotten Dreams” | Werner Herzog

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“Maybe they in the future will find other caves with even older paintings and evidence of human and artistic work. But this is the first evidence of the modern human soul.”

Chauvet Cave, from “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” by Werner Herzog (2010)
Official Trailer for Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.” (2010)
Introduction to the Cave Art Paintings of the Chauvet Cave from the Bradshaw Foundation. Learn more about the Bradshaw Foundation’s work in Chauvet Cave.
3D Map of Chauvet Cave, from “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” by Werner Herzog (2010)

“Cave of Forgotten Dreams” was inspired by “First Impressions,” an article written by Judith Thurman for The New Yorker and published in 2008. But she, like the many filmmakers who had also petitioned the French government since Chauvet was discovered in 1994, never got permission to enter the cave and was forced to work from drawings and videos at the site.

Mr. Herzog succeeded where others failed, said Erik Nelson, the film’s producer, by becoming a temporary employee of the French government (for the symbolic payment of 1 euro) and giving France’s Ministry of Culture copies of the raw footage for noncommercial purposes. “I was kind of astounded that Werner got in,” Ms. Thurman said. “Getting permission to film in there was in itself a great feat of cultural diplomacy.” (read the full article, Prehistoric Cave With a Hornet on the Wall by Larry Rohter, on the New York Times)

Copyright Information

The images on this page are not authored by Lines & Marks. They are shared under “fair use” for non-profit, educational and reference purposes, and may be subject to copyright. If for any reason this status is contested, notify us and we will remove the image(s) immediately. All other, © Lines & Marks, 2015.

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