An amateur archaeologist appears to have deciphered a Stone Age writing system that experts believe is the oldest ever discovered.
Ben Bacon, a furniture restorer by day, spent many evenings poring over pictures of cave paintings of mammoths and other prehistoric animals. His analysis, which has been backed by university professors, suggests that the paintings, which are up to 25,000 years old, use symbols to relay information.
“I’m interested in writing, how it develops,” Bacon, 67, said. “What we have here is a simple writing system.”
He believes that palaeolithic hunter-gatherers used symbols to store information on the breeding cycles of their prey. The symbols were used across Europe until the end of the Ice Age, roughly 11,000 years ago, and could date back up to 40,000 years. The next oldest system did not appear until about 5,500 years ago, in Mesopotamia.
The older system uses three symbols — lines, dots and a “Y” shape — and a calendar based on the lunar cycle. The year starts with spring and dots and lines stand for lunar months.
A picture of a mammoth followed by five marks indicates that the mammoth breeding season takes place five lunar months after the start of spring.
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