This is an extraordinary find. Thank you so much for pointing to it. The article says:
"This suggests to us something beyond a functional explanation.”
Far from it. These objects match the pattern of memory devices which I explain at length in my book, “Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: orality, memory and the transmission of culture", published by Cambridge University Press a few moths ago. Mnemonic objects will be found in association with ceremonial gathering sites.
Of course, the analysis in terms of a cutting surface needs to be done, but the archaeologists are suggesting otherwise because of the organisation of the lines. I will have to trust their analysis on that before I can be confident in my interpretation. It would be unlikely that the grooves would be so deep in a stone cutting board and I know of no ethnographic examples, but would be very happy to be convinced otherwise.
We have extant hunter-gatherer cultures here in Australia and abstract engravings on objects like this are well known. They are mnemonic devices. All non-literate cultures use memory aids as a critical aspect of a culture which has to rely on memory for all their knowledge. Most are a little more sophisticated in more recent times. Examples of such devices include the Australian tjuringa and the African Lukasa. The Australian coolamon (food dish) I have has lines like those shown in the images and I know they are mnemonic. The indigenous woman who gave it to me explained exactly how a woman would have been trained using it.
I have been conducting a swag of experiments using abstract designs like this as memory aids because I really didn’t believe what I was being told in terms of their effectiveness. They work extraordinarily well but it is hard to understand such a different way of knowing without trying it. Recutting the engravings, as suggested in the article, is exactly what is done in ceremony and aids recall. Those ceremonies involve singing the songs which encode all knowledge including that which is essential for survival.
The Australian Aboriginals have explained why abstract designs are used so frequently. They enable multiple levels of interpretation to be encoded to the same device. That can’t be done as easily with representational images. And, which is even more important, they mean that only those initiated into the information can use the object. That maintains secrecy, part of all non-literate cultures. Firstly critical survival information cannot become corrupted by the so-called Chinese Whispers effect and it maintains power in the hands of the elders. Power in all apparently egalitarian non-literate cultures is in the hands of those who control information. Hence the title of my book.
But it takes a whole book to explain properly!
I am just finishing the draft of the mainstream book on the topic which will be published here in Australia by Allen & Unwin in July next year and then by Atlantic Books in the UK.
The Cambridge book has been sent out to the academic journals for review but that takes time. A long time. Oh well.
> On 4 Nov 2015, at 2:42 am, John Wood <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> When I first saw this my first inclination was toward a work surface.
> Perhaps a cutting surface rather than anything vaguely connected with art.
> On 3 Nov 2015 15:10, "Michael" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> "A dig in Jersey has yielded a stash of hunter-gatherer artefacts from the
>> end of the last Ice Age, including stone pieces criss-crossed by carved
>> lines. ... estimate them to be at least 14,000 years old."
>> "Carved lines" - they look just like my bread board!
Dr Lynne Kelly
Honorary Research Associate
La Trobe University | Bundoora VIC 3086 Australia
E: [log in to unmask] | W: www.latrobe.edu.au