Petroglyphs and Pictographs

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     The purpose of writing is to convey information and ideas. One method for doing that is the use of pictures which convey the information or ideas desired. For example, this sign, , clearly conveys the notion of gender differentiated bathrooms for us.
     Similarly pictographs and petroglyphs did the same for early generations of human beings. Petroglyphs are images that have been carved into the rock surface while pictographs have been painted or drawn on the rock using pigments or dyes.
     The picture from eastern California is a petroglyph, incised or carved into the rock surface. It is perhaps 7000 years old. It shows several antlered animals.

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     An example of a pictograph is the bison from Altamira, Spain. These images date 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. They were painted on the walls of caves. The images at Altamira focus on bison, which was an important source of food and raw materials for clothing and tools.

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     Images like these convey information, but they also may have other qualities. They may be expressions of “sympathetic magic” where the image seeks to determine a specific result, the success of the hunt, or seeks protection from danger.

     In the case of the Bushman burial stone, the figures and activities may indicate an anticipation of life after death, or activities of the person during their life.

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     The stamp showing “Pictographic Script Sumerian Tablet” shows an accounting tablet, possibly from Umma, 2900-2600 b.c. (David Diringer, The Alphabet: A Key to the History of Mankind, 3rd edition. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1968, Vol. 2, p. 20).

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