Why Lost Civilizations Matter

by Michelle Snyder

SHOWN: Rx symbol 12,500 BC, Gönnersdorf, Germany. Translated Duncan-Enzmann: Medicine Lady and Her Medicine.

For decades I have followed the trail left by symbol-makers who practiced their craft in what we call prehistory. Here it is that a language of pictures was used to record the lives and knowledge of a civilization long since obscured by those that followed. As I first began to discover the origin of these images, I experienced a sense of wonder and excitement as a revelation of our ancient world emerged. The story told by this picture language is that of an intelligent and extraordinarily resourceful culture, one that studied the stars, built observatories, survived ice ages, and voyaged on the oceans.

The image above shows the oldest known Rx symbol for medicine. The medicine lady knew how to extract aspirin from willow branches and digitalis from Foxglove, and could make poultices and ointments. She managed childbirth, healing wounds, sicknesses, and broken bones. How many of us ever stopped to think how common these situations are with humanity and that there must have been a way to deal with them?

The images, symbols, and pictures left to us by our ice age ancestors tell how they lived and survived. Understanding this language also, like the Rosetta Stone, gives us the ability to read the images in Lascaux before them and the languages of cultures that followed. The dramatic stories they tell add depth to our knowledge of prehistory and answer a lot of questions about the civilizations that have vanished.

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