The geometric signs found at French rock art sites during the Ice Age (10,000–35,000 years ago) show definite spatial/temporal usage patterns. This continuity suggests the signs were being used with purpose and were meaningful to their creators. If they were meant to convey information, then this could be an early form of graphic communication. Further research is needed to: 1) expand the study to include all European Ice Age sites with geometric art to find larger scale patterns, and 2) identify relationships between different signs at individual sites and then look for inter-site repetition. Preliminary tests at French and Spanish sites show the same pairings repeating, suggesting structured use of the geometric signs reminiscent of later writing systems. To date, most research in this field has focused on the animal paintings, even though the signs outnumber other image types at most sites by at least a 2:1 ratio, resulting in a lack of documentation regarding these abstract symbols. Without this data, it is challenging to accurately reconstruct large-scale patterns of sign usage, or to test the hypothesis that the signs were being used systematically. These shortcomings will be addressed over two field seasons (2012 and 2013) when multiple sites throughout Europe will be visited and photographed. This will be the first project of its kind. Database inventories will be compiled and trending software used to find repeating patterns, track interregional relationships and pinpoint places of origin. Outputs will include the largest digital archive of imagery and site inventories in the world, and outcomes will include a greater understanding of the context within which the geometric signs were created, with this information being made available to other researchers. One of the most important potential enduring impacts of this project will be the possibility of identifying the origins of writing thousands of years earlier than had previously been suspected.
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