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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Art May Have Helped Shape Human Cognition and Language

Friday, February 23, 2018

Cave art communicationBOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS—According to a report in The Boston Globe, linguist Shigeru Miyagawa of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleagues think that cave art could offer clues to the evolution of language. Ancient paintings are often found in acoustic “hot spots” in caves, where the artists may have experienced echoes of the sounds they generated. Miyagawa suggests modern humans would have had to use a cognitive process to convert the acoustic signal into a mental representation, and then externalize it as a symbolic drawing. For example, the artists might have recreated the sounds of hoof beats, experienced the echo, and then drawn images of hoofed animals. He notes that cave art has been found all over the world, just like human language. For more, go to “he First Artists.”

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