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Cliff Paintings in Ningxia May Be Origin of Picture Writing

The prehistoric cliff paintings discovered in northwestern China may be a medium of primitive language and an origin of picture writing, experts have said.

The cliff painting discovered in Damaidi in Zhongwei County, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, was made by ancients with the purpose of communication, instead of entertaining themselves with drawings, argued Zhou Xinghua, member of the International Cliff Painting Committee and former curator of the Ningxia Autonomous Regional Museum.

Damaidi, located at the Weining North Mountain on the northern bank of the Yellow River, boasts 8,532 cliff carvings in a 15-sq-km area, according to Zhou. The density of figures carved in the area was rarely seen elsewhere.

The earliest cliff carvings in Damaidi can be traced back 20,000 to 30,000 years, he said.

The carvings feature the sun, moon, stars, rivers, mountain rocks, trees, flowers, more than 20 animal species and vivid human figures such as hunters, herdsmen, warriors and wizards.

There are also more than 100 kinds of carvings featuring human and animal heads and footprints and dozens of utensils used commonly in construction, production and daily life, and weaponry.

A large number of carvings portray celestial bodies, hunting, sacrificial services, domestic animal raising, grazing, war and other activities.

Archaeologists also found that a prehistoric "Venus" carving on the cliff, a stone-carved figure of a nude woman, dates from the late Paleolithic period. Similar carvings have been discovered in Greece and Austria.

Zhou Xinghua said Damaidi cliff carvings, recording the thinking and attitudes of prehistoric people, primitive beliefs, ancient social life and events, are effectively the picture language of ancient people.

 (Xinhua News Agency January 24, 2006)

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