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The 32 signs that von Petzinger has catalogued in Ice Age cave art across Europe. They account for the vast majority of non-figurative imagery found across the continent during this 30,000-year time span, suggesting that they were used with purpose and were meaningful to their creators. Each of the 32 signs has their own distinct pattern of use. Courtesy Genevieve von Petzinger.\ After examining dozens of Ice Age cave sites across Europe, paleoarchaeologist Genevieve von Petzinger discovered our ancestors repeatedly used 32 signs. Why? She walks us through her eye-opening discoveries — and their implications.
The title for the world’s oldest dated cave art is currently held by an unassuming red disk, at least 41,000 years old, painted on a wall inside a rock formation in El Castillo, Spain. “It’s the size of a teacup’s saucer,” says paleoarchaeologist Genevieve von Petzinger (TED Talk: Why are these 32 symbols found in ancient caves all over Europe?). “It’s this very innocuous little thing./.../