Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cartographers of the Paleolithic

It’s easy to forget, when you found your mind wandering during a particularly long and boring meeting, that human have been communicating nonverbally for as long as 40,000 years, through the graphic and visual arts.

Most of us are familiar with the Chauvet Cave paintings and the Venus of Willendorf. But were there other ways in which prehistoric people communicated with visuals and graphics? The answer appears to be “yes.”

According to the Telegraph (via TYWKIWDBI), a 14,000-year-old stone tablet found in a cave in northern Spain in 1993 is believed to be the oldest known map. “The landscape depicted corresponds exactly to the surrounding geography,” says Pilar Utrilla, who led the research team, “complete with herds of ibex marked on one of the mountains visible from the cave itself.”

It’s a useful reminder that communications need not — indeed, should not — be confined to words. Visuals and graphics can be powerful communicators of important information.

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