1--Primitive Records, Prodromes of the Book
The codex book as we know it today was a product of the 1st century C.E., but it had been preceded by a long history of
books in other formats and an even longer history of graphic communications and the development of writing. Prehistoric
communication was essentially oral, but pictures were also used—communication using marks and symbols that were
drawn upon a surface or substrate. These became the graphic counterpart of the spoken word or unspoken thought, the
beginning of graphic communications. Historian David Diringer went so far as to characterize them as “prodromes” of the
The oral tradition had two major drawbacks: the inevitable fallibility of human memory and that human speech has an
immediacy of expression that cannot transcend time and place. Graphic communications resolved both deficiencies.
The meanings of these prehistoric efforts at communication are not certain, but, between 35,000 to at least 5,000
B.C.E., from France and Spain, to Algeria and South Africa, to Australia and Easter Island, they were a universal
phenomena. In some cultures, an evolution of this primitive graphic communications occurred, as the original pictures
were simplified and stylized and became symbols for a written language.

    Please CLICK on an image for an ENLARGED version.
This 1-dinar value is part of a four
stamp set issued on 21 November
1981 commemorating the cave
drawings of Tassili-N-Ajjer. The
stamp shows paintings of bulls that
were done ca. 6000 B.C.E.
Tassili-n-Ajjer in Algeria is perhaps
the most outstanding North African
site of rock painting. More than
15,000 drawings and engravings
record climatic changes, animal
migrations, and the evolution of
human life on the edge of the Sahara
from 6000 B.C.E. to the first
centuries of the present era. Tassili
imagery documents a verdant Sahara
teeming with life that stands in stark
contrast to the arid desert the region
has since become. Engravings of
animals such as bulls and the
extinct giant buffalo are among the
earliest works, followed later by
paintings in which color is used to
depict humans and animals with
striking naturalism. In still later
periods, chariots, shields, and
camels appear in the rock paintings.
Although close to the Iberian
Peninsula, scholars currently believe
that the rock art of Algeria, including
Tassili, developed independently of
that in Europe (Algeria Scott #676).
Brazil issued this souvenir sheet of
three values at BRAPEX VI to
commemorate three examples of cave
paintings: deer at Cerca Grande
(Scott #1998), lizards at Lapa do
Caboclo (Scott #1999), and running
deer at Grande Abrigo de Santana do
Riacho (Brazil Scott #2000A).
Set around the comparatively lush Tamgaly
Gorge in Kazakhstan, amidst the vast, arid
Chu-Ili Mountains, is a remarkable
concentration of some 5,000 petroglyphs
(rock carvings) dating from the second half of
the second millennium B.C.E. and later.  In
2003 Kazakhstan issued two stamps
depicting these petroglyphs, the first
showing cows (25-tenge value), the second
presenting man as the sun on a bull
(30-tenge value) (Kazakstan Scott #436-437).
Lascaux is the setting of a complex
of caves in southwestern France
famous for its cave paintings
containing some of the most
well-known Upper Paleolithic art.
Estimated to be 16,000 years old,
they consist primarily of realistic
images of large animals, most of
which are known from fossil evidence
to have lived in the area at the time.
This 1.0-franc value was issued on
13 April 1968 to commemorate
Lascaux Cave (France Scott #1204).
Issued on 12 March 1976, this souvenir
sheet has four values depicting
prehistoric rock paintings. Pictured are
elephants (4¢ value), rhinoceros (10¢
value), antelope and a hunter (15¢
value), and a hunter with a bow and
arrow (20¢ value) (South West Africa
Scott #387).
More recent rock paintings from the
Highveld area of Swaziland
(ca.1700-1850) are featured in a
four-value set, here shown on a FDC.
The subjects include various animals,
groups of men, cattle, and herdsmen
(Swaziland Scott #285-288a).
Return to Gallery of Graphics Stamps Page
Return to Home Page