A London-based independent researcher has helped uncover a fascinating meaning behind 20,000-year-old traces of Ice Age hunter-gatherers. The Guardian reported,

An analysis of European cave markings, which include lines, dots and Y-shaped symbols, suggested they were a method of communication for hunter-gatherers, according to a study published in Cambridge Archaeological Journal on Thursday,

The study states that the marks, when closely associated with images of animals, represent numbers for months on the lunar calendar and help communicate the animal’s reproductive cycle.

The researchers noted the markings, which appeared in more than 600 Ice Age images, as part of a proto-writing system, or a system that communicated information through signs.

The study comes after furniture conservator Ben Bacon spent “many hours” researching the pictures online and in the British Library. BBC reportedAs they looked for repeating patterns.

Bacon said the Y-shaped symbol in the selected images is likely a symbol of childbirth because it shows one line growing from another, according to the BBC.

He later began working with professors at Durham University and University College London, who found information embedded in the markings, which, until the study, had led archaeologists to believe that “they were storing some kind of information, but their did not know the specific meaning, according to a press release,

According to The Guardian, archaeologist Paul Petit of Durham University said he was glad he took her seriously after contacting Bacon.

“The results show that Ice Age hunter-gatherers were the first to use a systemic calendar and mark within that calendar to record information about major ecological events,” Pettit said.

“We’ve been able to show that these people – who left a legacy of spectacular art in caves [France’s] Lascaux and [Spain’s] Altamira – also left a record of early timekeeping that would eventually become common among our species.

Lascaux is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France, famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. These include some of the most famous Upper Paleolithic art.

History/Universal Images Group Via Getty Images

During an interview with CNN, Alistair Pike, an archaeological science professor at the University of Southampton who is unaffiliated with the study, compared the search for meaning in European Paleolithic cave art to looking for a needle in a haystack.

,[This] This is the most convincing evidence to date of the systematic meaning of dots, lines and symbols studied with animals,” Pike said.

The Guardian reported that Bacon said the people responsible for the drawings from thousands of years ago felt “suddenly very close”.

“As we probe deeper into their world, what we’re discovering is that these ancient ancestors are a lot like us,” Bacon said.

“What we’re hoping for, and the preliminary work is promising, is that unlocking more parts of the proto-writing system will help us understand what information our ancestors knew.”

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