The First Signs

The First Signs

Unlocking the Mysteries of the World's Oldest Symbols

Book - 2016
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"One of the most significant works on our evolutionary ancestry since Richard Leakey's paradigm-shattering Origins, The First Signs is the first-ever exploration of the little-known geometric images that accompany most cave art around the world-- the first indications of symbolic meaning, intelligence, and language. Imagine yourself as a caveman or woman. The place: Europe. The time: 25,000 years ago, the last Ice Age. In reality, you live in an open-air tent or a bone hut. But you also belong to a rich culture that creates art. In and around your cave paintings are handprints and dots, x's and triangles, parallel lines and spirals. Your people know what they mean. You also use them on tools and jewelry. And then you vanish-- and with you, their meanings. Join renowned archaeologist Genevieve von Petzinger on an Indiana Jones-worthy adventure from the open-air rock art sites of northern Portugal to the dark depths of a remote cave in Spain that can only be reached by sliding face-first through the mud. Von Petzinger looks past the beautiful horses, powerful bison, graceful ibex, and faceless humans in the ancient paintings. Instead, she's obsessed with the abstract geometric images that accompany them, the terse symbols that appear more often than any other kinds of figures-- signs that have never really been studied or explained until now. Part travel journal, part popular science, part personal narrative, Von Petzinger's groundbreaking book starts to crack the code on the first form of graphic communication. It's in her blood, as this talented scientist's grandmother served as a code-breaker at Bletchley. Discernible patterns emerge that point to abstract thought and expression, and for the first time, we can begin to understand the changes that might have been happening inside the minds of our Ice Age ancestors--offering a glimpse of when they became us"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Atria Books, 2016.
Edition: First Atria books hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781476785493
Branch Call Number: 302.2223 Von
Characteristics: ix, 307 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm


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ontherideau Oct 20, 2017

Ice Age rock art that is 10,000 years old- for me, learning of language and communication of humans so long ago is fascinating. It's wonderful that books like this get published and that public libraries make them available to all of us, so many generations removed.

Aug 25, 2017

Many debates about intentions of the originators-mentions often they were at the same cognitive level...but they lacked "history of invention" (p. 240). She describes and categorises the findings and come up with interesting observations. Appreciate the labour involved (she describes the dangers of her explorations). The colour photograph inserts are good as well-truly they're gifted in spotting these markings in the first place.

Mar 15, 2017

This is a mixed bag of her own travel/ research activities, a brief an informal introduction to prehistoric archeology and it purported to being an answer to the question in the title: why are there 32 signs seen regularly in prehistoric Europe. The answer, well, wasn't clearly given, except to say that its highly unlikely that we'll ever know. Many suggestions are too briefly surveyed, like the one that there are consistent patterns to what people see when in the dark for a long time (entoptics). Nevertheless, its a fascinating topic - at least I find it so - and thats what kept me reading till the end (the writing was quite informal and flat).

Aug 13, 2016

A pathetic pretense at scholarly work. I'm embarrassed for her for not knowing the difference.


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Aug 30, 2017

Other: page 183


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