I'm just getting into "The First Signs" by Genevieve Von Petzinger. It's about the symbols used in cave art during the ice age (50k to 10k years ago). Apparently there were only 32, and they were used repeatedly all over Europe during that time.
She sees them as a precursor to writing.
Talks a lot about when people became "like us", or even "became us". Along the way you kind of learn what she means by this: one aspect is the ability to think about abstract concepts; another the symbolic (non-functional) use of colour, and decoration, engraving (initially abstract).
Says "language and creativity [are] driven by the capacity to think and communicate with symbols
I find that whole aspect interesting -- what it might mean to be a "modern" human. She takes a lot for granted here: that we are wonderful, says that we use *all* the creative potential of our mind ( !! that, in the intro already, seemed like a bit of a bald statement and got me focusing on how she see modern versus ancient -- she carefully avoids use of "primitive").
Enjoying the book a lot btw.
Fwiw here's an article with another perspective "Humans were not centre stage: how ancient cave art puts us in our place"https://thebaffler.c...oid-stain-ehrenreich
Suggests that people at the time saw themselves as small in the scheme of things (in the cave art, the only humans are tiny stick figures, surrounded by huge animals -- animals that were also huge irl); also that they had a sense of humour (apparently small clay "Venuses" were intentionally made with flaws, probably for throwing in the fire, where they would explode - a precursor to fireworks)