Before proto writing: symbolic pictures from Jerf el-Ahmar 9,000 BP



On the left bank of the Euphrates River, 100 km (60 mi) of Aleppo (Syria), in the archaeological site of Jerf el-Ahmar (in Arabian “Red Bank”), a Syrian-French team discovered, in 1996, some very old stone slates bearing engraved graphics.

The plates were considered to date from the Neolithic  being 9,000 years old. The plates pre-date with 4,000 years the oldest known writing, the Sumerian (in southern Iraq), believed to have appeared 5,000 years ago.

I can tell you that the the strange loops with dots in them on stone c look like humans depicted from above in Australian Aboriginal art. The ‘u’ shapes represent the legs or arms of someone sitting cross legged on the ground, and the dot inside the head. The site is a PPNA site that falls within the within the Mureybetian culture. I don’t think these are just plain drawings, they look as if they have some kind of narrative function (long lost). There’s a descritpion of the stones in this book link, page 89.


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