Cave art decoded… cryptic messages from our deep past told Ice Age hunters when prey mated on drawings over 20,000 years old

  • The lines and dots on famous cave paintings have been interpreted as calendars.
  • markings, which are more than 20,000 years old, are believed to be the earliest
  • Ben Bacon, 68, compiled over 700 drawings from the Upper Palaeolithic

They are enigmatic messages from our deep past, when humans were hunter-gatherers.

But the lines and dots that adorn some of our most famous cave paintings have finally been deciphered as the world’s oldest calendar, more than 20,000 years old.

The code for these symbols found on animal paintings was cracked by a London furniture restorer who devoted seven years to the mystery.

Ben Bacon, 68, would scour academic databases on his daily commute; After compiling more than 700 images from the Upper Palaeolithic, they found evidence that pigment dots and etched lines on animals measured the time of their mating.

The lines and dots that decorate some of our most famous cave paintings (circled above) have finally been deciphered as the world’s oldest calendar.

Independent researcher Ben Bacon scoured academic databases and collated over 700 images to support the finding

Independent researcher Ben Bacon scoured academic databases and collated over 700 images to support the finding

Hunter-gatherers would need records of when animals mated and gave birth, as this was when they were widespread in large numbers and easier to hunt.

Each line or point represents a lunar month, counted from the end of the spring season. Mr Bacon, a father of two, worked with a team of academics to publish a paper in the Cambridge Archaeological Journal.

He said: ‘I was looking at the cave paintings in the early hours, with a headache, but I was down the rabbit hole and determined to show that these dots and lines are measuring time.

The symbols, which have been identified as the earliest form of writing system, predate other similar signs by at least 10,000 years.  Three lines within an engraved salmon painted inside the Pindal Cave in Spain, about 17,000 years ago, indicate that the fish migrate around July, about three months after the lunar spring.

The symbols, which have been identified as the earliest form of writing system, predate other similar signs by at least 10,000 years. Three lines within an engraved salmon painted inside the Pindal Cave in Spain, about 17,000 years ago, indicate that the fish migrate around July, about three months after the lunar spring.

The markings were identified by 68-year-old researcher Ben Bacon as a calendar and an early form of writing system

The markings were identified by 68-year-old researcher Ben Bacon as a calendar and an early form of writing system

A horse drawn on the wall of Niaux Cave (Ariege, France) about 15,000 years ago.  Ice Age hunter-gatherers used cave paintings to record sophisticated information about the world

A horse drawn on the wall of Niaux Cave (Ariege, France) about 15,000 years ago. Ice Age hunter-gatherers used cave paintings to record sophisticated information about the world

A pair of wild horses on a rock surface in the Pech-Merle cave in France, which were formed about 30,000 years ago

A pair of wild horses on a rock surface in the Pech-Merle cave in France, which were formed about 30,000 years ago

‘I wasn’t always in my family’s good books, and I got a firm no when I asked for pictures of cave paintings for Christmas and birthdays.’

Now identified as a ‘proto-writing’ system, the symbols predate the others by at least 10,000 years.

Professor Paul Pettit, of Durham University, said: ‘We contact hundreds of people a year, and often they don’t get what they believe they have – but I’m really glad I took Ben seriously. ‘

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