What is it about?

Upper Palaeolithic hand stencils at Cosquer cave have been interpreted as forming a numeric code. The present analysis examined ‘digits’ at Cosquer and Gargas from the perspectives of modern ethnography, shared cognitive functioning and human hand anatomy, concluding that correspondences between the 27,000-year-old hand stencils and modern finger-counting practices, including the use of so-called biomechanically infeasible hand positions, are unlikely due to chance; thus, the hand stencils may indeed represent integers. Images of finger-signs may provide an additional avenue for interpreting Palaeolithic quantification.

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I am interested in how societies become numerate by using and recruiting material forms into the cognitive system for numbers over generations of collaborative effort. The manuovisually engaged domain of material forms is a primary mechanism for realizing and elaborating numerical concepts. I also look at the effect this elaborational mechanism has on conceptual content, and what this might augur about the future of human cognition.

Dr. Karenleigh A. Overmann
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

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This page is a summary of: Finger-counting in the Upper Palaeolithic, November 2021, Center for Open Science, DOI: 10.31235/osf.io/wgbe5.
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