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WiseGuy: The Author's Blog

The Painted Caves of Southern France, Part XIII: The Calendar of Creation

Images from Lascaux Cave showing dot-like markings said to indicate the gestation calendar of the animal depicted..


 
By Richard W. Wise
Author: The Dawning: 31,000 BC
 
Current headlines are screaming: The discovery of protowriting in European Paleolithic caves by a London-based furniture conservator, Ben Bacon, is the hottest thing in archeology.
 
Bacon, a long-term amateur archeologist working with three professionals, two from Durham University and one from University College, London, claims to have cracked the code around two specific sets of cave signs. The markings, found in caves throughout Europe, are a lunar calendar that likely tracked the reproduction cycles of the prey animals depicted in Ice Age cave paintings.
 
The system of dots together with the <Y> sign are among those earlier identified by Genevieve Von Petzinger as one of thirty-two ubiquitous signs found while crawling—along with her husband--through painted caves spread all over the European continent. My wife and I saw several of these signs at Font de Gaum, Lascaux and Chauvet during our June tour. Geometric symbols are associated with the phenomenal animal images at many others, including Lascaux, El Castillo, Niaux, Tito Bustillo, and Pech Merle.
 
That a system of dots can be deduced as calendar markings is not altogether revelatory. In his 1991 book, Archeologist Alexander Marchack made a case for markings of portable art—markings on bones—can be traced as far back as the Aurignacian Period (40-35,000 BP). This latest study acknowledges that such things are parts of Artificial or External Memory Systems (EMS) used by early Homo Sapiens.
 
To suggest that these dot sequences represented a numerical system and were meant to convey information about prey animals, such as mating, birthing, rutting and migration seasons, is something new.
 
The Calendar of Creation:
 
The authors of this latest study agree with Marchack that each dot represents not a single number but a single unit of calendrical time. But where should they begin? The authors suggest a meteorological calendar which begins with Late Spring, the beginning of the Season of Life when the ice on the rivers melts and the herd animals begin migrating to their breeding grounds. This information would be of great importance to the hunter/gatherers of the late Paleolithic, who depended on these animals for most of their diet.

 

Stay tuned!

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The Painted Caves of Southern France, XII: Neanderthal Art, Part 3

The current record holder, a carved nodule of red ochre, found at Blombos Cave in South Africa and dated to 73,000 BP. The pattern is eerily similar to a Neanderthal bone carving from the Chatelperonian Period. (see posted Facebook images)  

 

by Richard W. Wise

Author: The Dawning: 31,000 BC

 

Recently, a carved deer bone (phalanx) of the giant species Megaloceros has been found at a Neanderthal excavation at Einhornhohle in the Harz Mountains. Dated stratigraphically and by Carbon 14 to 51,000 BP, the bone exhibits a cross-hatched slicing pattern or offset chevrons, a pattern roughly similar to the oldest "art" yet found, the celebrated engraved red ochre nodule unearthed at Blombos Cave, South Africa, and dated to 73,000 BP.
 
The deer bone appears to have no practical use. That, coupled with the rarity of this species, has led archeologists to conclude that it must have some symbolic meaning. Was this the result of a Neanderthal checking the edge of his newly knapped flint handaxe? Archeologists have the unsettling habit of labeling anything for which they can determine no use as a symbolic or votive object.
 
Whatever the cause, note that the archeological community has embraced the ochre nodule found at Blombos but not the Einhornhohle deer bone. John Shea, an archeologist from Stony Brook University, suggests the bone could have b as a sinker on a fishing line or a spool for thread, humm!

 

Heard the latest? Tiny daubs next to paintings of prey animals at Chauvet, Lascaux and elsewhere are identified as seasonal calendars. StayTuned!

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The Painted Caves of Southern France, Part XI: Neanderthals:Part 2

The well-fed foodie. Studies suggest that Neanderthals were quite sophisticated gourmands. The mixed wild peas, lentils and other v and flavored their stews with wild mustard.

Shanidar Cave, Iraqi, Kurdistan. Four levels of excavation. During the first excavation, Dr. Ralph Solecki discovered ten Neanderthal skeletons. One was of a mature male with a withered arm and other serious injuries. This skeleton inspired Jean Auel's character, The Mog-ur (Creb the shaman) in her 1980 novel, Clan of the Cave Bear.
 
Despite his injuries, the man survived well into his maturity A demonstration of Neanderthal empathy? Many think so. Another skeleton showed evidence of a projectile wound, providing the first documented evidence of conflict in prehistoric times.
 
The grave of one of the Shanidar skeletons, a 35-40-year-old male (Shanidar IV), was associated with pollen from six different flower species. Initial claims that this was evidence of a symbolic burial by the first flower children were extremely controversial. Additional remains (Shanidar 6 & 8) found at this dig were also associated with plant material but provided nothing definitive. Did Neanderthals decorate their graves? Was this an ancient cemetery? Neanderthals returned to this cave time after time. Precise dating has proved elusive. The remains appear to be at the outer limits of Radio Carbon dating. Leading to a stated range of 35,000-60,000 BP.
 
Another interesting find at this site. Upon examination, Shanidar 3, a middle-aged male, showed a deep scratch on his ninth rib, indicating a projectile wound. Was this a hunting accident or the result of a duel with another Neanderthal or perhaps a modern human? According to experimental archeologist Steven Churchill, the wound is most consistent with a lightweight, l, spear such as those used by our direct ancestors.  Is it the first evidence of conflict in the Upper Paleolithic? 

 

The Neanderthal residents were sophisticated foodies. Analysis of charred food remains indicates that they mixed wild peas, vetch, nuts and edible seed pods along with lentils. Wild mustard was used as a flavoring—the true Paleolithic diet.

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Taking On The Slumlord--Organizing 101: A Short Story by Richard W. Wise

Moesha's apartment building was located on Boston's Boylston Street, just on the fringe of Jamaica Plain but still within the borders of Flynt's Project.  It was large, a nineteenth-century brick townhouse that had been broken up into rental units.  The outside looked ok, but the inside was another story.  The door lock was broken and the big entrance door yawned open into a dark hallway—unlit and dank, reeking with the sharp odor of urine. 

 

The entrance hall had been wallpapered, but whole strips had sloughed off the walls—like a snake shedding its skin—leaving exposed plaster and visible lath. Slum housing was nothing new to Flynt. He had grown up in the projects and as the sole black man training as a block organizer in South Providence in the early seventies, he had seen a whole lot worse. Read On

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