Tag Archives: rock art

Rock art : first steps of graphic communication

Using graphics to communicate is not exactly a recent idea of our species. It actually dates back (at least) to the paintings our ancestors made in caves, as mentioned by Nigel Holmes in his Infographia poster. That means roughly between 20 and 40 000 years ago, for caves like Chauvet, Cussac or Lascaux in France.

While most of us have seen the paintings of animals and humans, few of us know that a great many (non-figurative) signs were also drawn in these caves. This is the topic of Genevieve von Petzinger‘s reasearch. In a TED talk she explained last year that after studying these signs in several caves across Europe, she came to the conclusion that many of them were found in different places and different times. While she thinks that there are too few signs to make them a language, she does think that they had a meaning, and that these signs and their accompanying paintings are the first know forms of graphic communication. That was way before d3.js, but though they lacked animation, they certainly stood the test of time.

There’s an interactive chart explaining where the signs were found here.

Geometric signs - Genevieve von Petzinger

Her book “The First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the World’s Oldest Symbols” is also about to be published I think.

Oh, and while we’re into caves, Nature just published an article about a new breakthrough in this field : it seems like Neanderthal was already making sculptures or building things in caves as early as 176 500 years ago…