Doorworks 3: Paleolithic numerical marks

Lartet and Christy 1875: Pl. LXXV

As early as the 1860s, archaeologists began to realize that Paleolithic humans were very different from their modern counterparts. These Upper Paleolithic notched bone and antler artifacts from the Dordogne in France were identified by the archaeologist Rupert Jones as arithmetical notations, tallies, or calendars. Jones’ identification was speculative, based on their appearance alone, and many of these may just as plausibly be simply decorative marks. Later work on Paleolithic numeration and arithmetic has focused on experimental and cognitive approaches to these artifacts (Marshack 1972, d’Errico and Cacho 1994). How might you determine what their true function was?

Works Cited

d’Errico, Francesco and Carmen Cacho. 1994. Notation Versus Decoration In The Upper Paleolithic – A Case-Study From Tossal-De-La-Roca, Alicante, Spain. Journal Of Archaeological Science 21 (2): 185-200.
Lartet, Edouard and Henry Christy. 1875. Reliquiae Aquitanicae, being contributions to the archaeology and paleontology of the Périgord. Edited by Rupert Jones. London: Baillière.
Marshack, Alexander. 1972. The Roots of Civilization. New York: McGraw-Hill.

(See also: Paleolithic Notation Bibliography)

Author: schrisomalis

Anthropologist, Wayne State University. Professional numbers guy. Rare Words: Blog:

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