Hardwired doesn’t need marks

This is intriguing but dubious. Researchers looking closely at some cave paintings of elk and antelope have been puzzled by periodic markings around the animals. These researchers see a correlation between the 13 months of the lunar calendar and the mating cycles of the animals.

First: When people are intensely interested in a set of events, our own internal maps and clocks remember Where and When without any writing. We have a nearly infinite pile of derivatives in our pattern-sensing memory for space and time. Unlike modern researchers, a non-modern hunter wouldn’t need to count months.

Second: Counting beyond 3 is not hard-wired, so it does require marks. We have always used tally marks to count our own kills, or to count our debts and possessions. 32 tallies around a type of animal means “I killed 32 of these” or “My farm contains 32 of these.”

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Semi-related counterthought: Writing and reading ARE hardwired. We traditionally assume that the Phoenician writing system, which gave birth to Greek and Roman and Hebrew and Arab writing, was simplified from pictures of animals like these.

It would make more sense to assume the opposite. We always knew how to represent our abstract words with abstract symbols. Turning the abstract symbols into more concrete pictures of animals and houses and such is not a regular use of language; it’s a way of translating between languages. When we are trying to communicate with another tribe, we use concrete symbols and hand-signs instead of our own words and word-marks.

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