Genevieve von Petzinger: Why did ancient humans paint symbols in caves? With few exceptions, ancient humans painted the same 32 symbols in caves all over Europe. Paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger asks: What were they trying to say to each other — and to us?

Why did ancient humans paint the same 32 symbols in caves all over Europe?

Why did ancient humans paint the same 32 symbols in caves all over Europe?

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Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Leaving a Mark. Check out Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

With few exceptions, ancient humans painted the same 32 symbols in caves all over Europe. Paleoanthropologist Genevieve von Petzinger asks: What were they trying to say to each other — and to us?

About Genevieve von Petzinger

Genevieve von Petzinger is a Canadian paleoanthropologist and rock art researcher. She focuses her studies on Ice Age cave art created by early humans in Europe between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago. In particular, she is interested in understanding the abstract geometric symbols found painted at many of these sites and understanding the origins of symbolism and graphic communication.

In 2016, she published a book about her research: The First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the World's Oldest Symbols.


This segment of the TED Radio Hour was produced by Rachel Faulkner White and edited by Sanaz Meshkinpour. You can follow us on Twitter @TEDRadioHour and email us at TEDRadio@npr.org.