Man has been attempting to communicate probably since the beginning of time! Not always successfully, still not always successfully; but, he keeps trying and that is the important part. In the modern world, focused on having things, making things, trading things, we have used our priorities to define past communication styles and successes. We have declared that man did not need to have a writing system until he needed to count for money purposes.Thus we only recognize previous attempts at a written system of communication based on what we see as established commerce in a societal group or settled region with several groups, and we identify these groups that have developed a need for commerce as becoming civilized. We even teach that ‘counting marks’ and ‘bookkeeping’ were the first writing, completely discounting all the other reasons that we communicate in a written or graphically symbolic way. This is a very narrow and one-dimensional approach to studying and understanding our history and those that came before us.
In the past, there has been some suggestion that written language, or graphical, forms of communications, has developed in different locales for different reasons. While it does seem logical that Sumerian and other Near-East civilizations began developing written forms for the sake of record keeping, bookkeeping and taxation purposes, it is thought that it is more probable that graphic expression in Europe formed out of religious need. However, the development of written communication is ambiguous at best, with some civilizations, Egypt being the best known, seeming to take up writing virtually overnight; and even the Sumerians appearing to take leaps and bounds in advancement once they appear on the scene.
Against this background, but without this focus, I was perusing YouTube and fell into the Ted rabbit-hole. While there I found a talk by Genevieve von Petzinger. She is a paleoanthropologist from Canada and for her Masters she researched the existence of commonality within the cave art of Ice Age Europe. I found her talk interesting and well researched and presented, please check it out for yourself. While finding merit in her study, it made me wonder about just what she might be on to, if the search were expanded.
If one studies writing or written communications, then one is exposed to the very obvious and even the not so obvious development of symbols used to convey sounds, words, thoughts, ideas and concepts, or emotions. There are clear ‘improvements’ of the symbol collections used by a culture over time or from one dominant culture to the next, which is clearly displayed in a Google search image search result to the left. The similarities, as well as, the logical evolution of certain symbols over time, as the styles and methods of using and creating or putting down the symbols changed, in order to make the exchange of information, concepts, ideas, thoughts and feelings more efficient and thus the sharing broader, is evident.
Some of the symbols have lost some of their parts and others have changed their orientation. Some have become simpler in construction while others are not recognized when placed by the original symbol and others have remained virtually unchanged and some seem to have combined previous separate symbols into one new symbol. In addition, within a specific written symbol family you can find multiple variants; take for example, our own, I am sharing this information with you via the latin alphabet symbol family; however, if I were using another language instead of English, then I might use a differing form of latin, whether it would be French, Spanish, German, Slavic or something else the symbols would not be identical, but would be recognized to a greater or lesser extent even by a non speaker of the language. And it is those commonalities that are the first clues used to attempt to understand the symbolic communication symbols of those cultures that came before us.
One of the earliest proposed forms of such organized symbolic ‘written’ communication system are the symbols used by the peoples that we call the Danubian culture of Europe, scattered throughout the lands surrounding the Danube River of Central and Southeastern Europe. Since, the Sumerians are given the title of “the first writers in history,” something that I have always felt was premature to be sure, all other suggestions of writing are supposed to fall into alignment with the accepted dates for Sumerian development and example. Thus, the first rebuke of suggesting that the “Danubian script” was in fact writing was tentatively allowed on the basis that it would have been “given” to these peoples from the much more civilized Sumerians in their great trading. That rebuke did not hold water once the science proved that “Danubian script” was found in much earlier sediments than any possible interactions with Sumeria would have been possible. Not all researchers accept that these peoples had a language or a symbol system for recording or expressing their language, however, there are certain examples that support the theory of both a symbol system and a common and widespread use of the system. Researchers have cataloged over 50 symbols that they claim make up the Danubian script and some of them can be seen in different forms in later scripts from the region, such as Liner A and B.
Below is one of the published collections of the Danubian script, unfortunately, I cannot give credit to or for this image, as it is one that I have had in my notes for years and have unfortunately lost the credits for, but it shows symbols that were used on pottery and other pieces over a region that covers much of the Danube river basin area and surrounding areas from Bulgaria to Croatia.
I am sure that you can see some symbols in the image above that are very recognizable to you and others that maybe feel similar to something that you are familiar with. In addition, I am sure that you can see symbols that are similar to the “Ice Age Cave Art Collection” of G. von Petzinger, top and the ‘ancient Greek regional scripts’ among the Danube Script.