Art. Caves. Sound. From silence…

When and where did humans develop language? To find out, look deep inside caves, suggests an MIT professor.

More precisely, some specific features of cave art may provide clues about how our symbolic, multifaceted language capabilities evolved, according to a paper co-authored by MIT linguist Shigeru Miyagawa.

A key to this idea is that cave art is often located in acoustic “hot spots,” where sound echoes strongly, as some scholars have observed. Those drawings are located in deeper, harder-to-access parts of caves, indicating that acoustics was a principal reason for the placement of drawings within caves. The drawings, in turn, may represent the sounds that early humans generated in those spots.

In the new paper, this convergence of sound and drawing is what the authors call a “cross-modality information transfer,” a convergence of auditory information and visual art that, the authors write, “allowed early humans to enhance their ability to convey symbolic thinking.” The combination of sounds and images is one of the things that characterizes human language today, along with its symbolic aspect and its ability to generate infinite new sentences.

Cave artists were thus not just drawing impressions of the outdoors at their leisure. Rather, they may have been engaged in a process of communication. “I think it’s very clear that these artists were talking to one another,” Miyagawa says. “It’s a communal effort”. (1)

Sound whirling in a fierce storm.

Snow falling on the rough ground.

Deep inside a cave, a human lies.

Being sick, ready to die.

Inside that cave, he sees the drawing he drew when he was young.

When the sound of his voice echoed underneath the Earth.

Fearing and being excited for the future.

Now he is silent. But the drawings are still there.

For some people to view, thousands of years from now.

A message no one – besides this man – will ever understand.

A message seemingly lost in the haze of aeons.

Until someone realizes, that this lack of message is the message itself…

Author: skakos

Spiros Kakos is a thinker located in Greece. He has been Chief Editor of Harmonia Philosophica since its inception. In the past he has worked as a senior technical advisor for many years. In his free time he develops software solutions and contributes to the open source community. He has also worked as a phD researcher in the Advanced Materials sector related to the PCB industry. He likes reading and writting, not only philosophy but also in general. He believes that science and religion are two sides of the same coin and is profoundly interested in Religion and Science philosophy. His philosophical work is mainly concentrated on an effort to free thinking of "logic" and reconcile all philosophical opinions under the umbrella of the "One" that Parmenides - one of the first thinkers - visualized. The "Harmonia Philosophica" articles program is the tool that will accomplish that. Life's purpose is to be defeated by greater things. And the most important things in life are illogical. We must fight the dogmatic belief in "logic" if we are to stay humans... Credo quia absurdum!

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