Stone Age, Rocks & Caves – History in Communication

Cave Paintings

Visual communications may have originated as early as the prehistoric period with where early humans (Cro-Magnon) possessed the ability to communicate visually since this was the primary method to communicate since they had yet to develop verbal skills. The oldest known forms of visual communication were cave paintings, which archaeologists believe date back to the Upper Paleolithic Age.

Although the Lascaux cave paintings are well-known, the oldest known cave painting are those found in Chauvet Cave also in France, dated around the aforementioned period (circa 30,000 BC/BCE). The most common themes found in these paintings are large animals, and of human hands, including rather abstract patterns even before abstract painting existed. Drawings of humans can hardly be found and are usually schematic instead of being natural.

Although they may appear to be mere artwork worth admiring, scholars will attest that these cave paintings can provide plenty of information: if there is anything that can be gleaned from this cave painting, prehistoric people may have created the first calendar since the painting may have indicated the time of year or season. In another theory being put forward, there is a likelihood these paintings may have been made by a shaman who relied on spirits to guide him in making these illustrations.

Given these theories, it is hard to arrive at a given conclusion owing to the relative lack of tangible evidence and various other issues with trying to comprehend the prehistoric mentality viewed through modern perspectives.


Cave paintings are not the only form of visual communication during prehistoric times. Early humans have found other ways to express their thoughts even before they became capable of speaking. One other form of visual communication is through the use of petroglyphs. These are images etched in stone and archaeologists surmised they may have appeared sometime around the Neolithic period, a period that followed Paleolithic and Mesolithic though there are those who argue they also appeared in the Paleolithic stage as well. These petroglyphs may either be pictographs or ideographs.

What can be gleaned here is that early man had to utilize whatever was available in his surroundings and lacking the materials to make illustrations like in cave paintings, they used stones to etch images. Furthermore, judging from the ideographs, man has learned to be more creative in communicating rather than rely purely on images. This is because there are certain things that cannot be visualized or depicted in images and these ideographs symbolize ideas of abstract concepts.

Therefore, it can be inferred that man has started to become more innovative in coming up with something new to express his ideas, especially when typical methods simply would not do. In addition, there is a shift toward simplification and stylization from the way illustrations were made. The images became increasingly abbreviated and were depicted with a fewer lines. Thus one can say that petroglyphs have evolved to the point of almost resembling letters.


A geoglyph is a large image made on the ground and typically formed with durable materials found in the landscape, such as stones, fragments, woof from trees, smaller stones like gravel, or soil. They may either be positive or negative. A positive geoglyph is created by the systematic arrangement of materials on the ground, while a negative geoglyph is formed by removing rocks and earth to reveal the unpatinated ground from above. The elements then oxidized these rocks and exposed earth, weathering them to create what amounts to special effects, lightening the colors of the exposed area which contrasts to the surroundings. This makes them look like huge chalk outlines typically associated with crime scenes. Because they are so huge, they are hard to see at ground level but once one is at a higher elevation, it is only then that these geoglyphs become very clear and they can be a sight so see.

Some of the most famous (negative) geoglyphs are the Nazca Lines in Peru which is perhaps the most known of all. There are also geoglyphs found in Australia where the largest geoglyph, Marree Man, can be found. There are also geoglyphs in the Great Basin Desert in the United States, Scandinavia and Russia, including the former Soviet republics.

There are several who want to theorize that it is highly unlikely for early man to be able to make these geoglyphs which made them arrive to the conclusion, extra-terrestrial beings may have done it. But then there are those who disagree and believe, man had the capability to do so. As to why they were made and for what reason, no definite conclusion has been reached yet and many are still putting out theories that have yet to be validated. Nevertheless, these geoglpyhs are also a form of visual communication, not just a mere activity for early man. They appear to be trying to say something and it seems they are directing it not to another man but to someone or something situated high above. As to who or what it is, the answer remains to be seen.