Genevieve von Petzinger, a paleoanthropologist, has a TED talk that is garnering some attention. She speaks on her findings from the exploration of art and geometric signs in caves around Europe. Most people have long known about the cave art, but the geometric signs were largely ignored until von Petzinger decided to focus on them and catalogue them.
Maybe the fascination with the art distracted people from the significance of the geometric signs and contributed to the under reporting of them. Von Petzinger is the first person to document and create a database of those geometric signs. She reports that she found previously undocumented geometric signs in 70% of the caves she surveyed.
Her TED talk focused on a stunning discovery she made. She observed that a total of 32 different geometric signs can be found in all the caves she visited. Only 32 different geometric signs were evidenced over a 30,000-year period on the entire continent of Europe! If they were random doodles or decorations, she says, we would expect to see much more variation, but that isn’t what she found.
Instead, she discovered that the signs were repeated from location to location. About 60% of the signs were used throughout the entire 30,000-year time span.
Some signs appeared early and ceased to be used, and other signs appeared later. Some signs appeared in wide geographic distribution, while other signs appeared in more concentrated geographic areas. But most of the signs were found throughout the continent and throughout the 30,000-year span.
Interestingly, the cave art in Europe bears some resemblance to the cave art as far away as Indonesia and Australia. Many of the same signs appear in far flung places, especially in the 30,000-40,000 year range. Genevieve von Petzinger says that these findings indicate an increasing likelihood that “this invention traces back to a common point of origin in Africa”, but “that is a subject for a future talk”, says von Petzinger.