The First North Americans
The photograph above captures what I think might well be the earliest known image portraying one of the first people to arrive in North America.
If you think that statement is controversial, well, you don't know the half of it yet. But be that as it may, I will simply tell you a little about what this image, and some others associated with it, can tell us.
The first thing of note is what this person is wearing on their head. It's the skinned head of an animal — some species of large cat, to be a little more precise. Now, there were a wide variety of large cats in North America at one time, so there is no shortage of potential candidates when one attempts to identify the species of this particular cat. And while I am by no means an expert — despite having looked at accurate, "drawn from life" images of quite a few kinds of ice age felines — I am going to tentatively identify this as having been a North American Lion.
North America Lions were the largest of the big cats — ever. They were fully a third ;larger than modern lions, and were most closely related to the cave lions of ice age Europe. They seem to have been a social animal, living in groups; but it is also possible that they hunted in pairs or by themselves. We really don't know, since all we have left of these animals are bones — they went extinct by about 11,000 years ago.
North American Lions are considered to have been apex predators in North America; and if they did group together in social units, it is easy to see why early humans would have felt an affinity toward them. Indeed, images of North American lions appear upon many examples of anametric image writing I have found: they seem to be the animal that early North Americans identified with most closely. There was, then, a very strong conceptual sense of identification toward North American lions on the part of early North Americans — something we see here as having been observed, and not just something we are inferring from image composites they created.
These early North Americans are shown elsewhere on this stone using boats of a type we now identify as "kayaks" (only, substantially longer, with the seat placed more toward the back than the front) — probably a light, hide-covered wooden-framed vessel. However, these early North Americans are not shown often, which is why I suspect this might be a visual record of some of the first people who arrived in North America. Instead, by far the most common type of image shown on this stone is of: HOMINIDS.
I should mention in passing that this really isn't the most contentious thing I've found in the course of my research — not even close. This stone came from a small island on the NorthWest Coast of North America, between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. That being said, it is contentious enough that one would be hard pressed to find a single mainstream academic who would agree that hominids substantially colonized North America well before humans arrived.
This, however seems to be the case: the first images of people in North America were made by an earlier species of hominid, which was apparently already here when the first humans arrived. As I mentioned, there is no shortage of controversy to be found when researching anametric image writing; but, I am nonetheless going to just keep moving along at this point, even though there is LOTS of interest to see. Certainly, such controversy has dogged researchers much more prominent that I: for instance, the acclaimed archaeologist Louis Leakey became involved with excavations at the Calico Early Man Site toward the end of his life; but claims made regarding what were possibly stone tools found there, which might date back as far as 300,000 years, were widely and soundly discounted. Both the apparent age — unprecedented for any human occupation so far outside of Africa — and the primitive nature of the tools (which some claimed were simply naturally fractured stones misinterpreted as tools) led mainstream archaeology to deny any authenticity for this site.
However, the possibility that this site might have been one established by some hominid species that preceded humans into the Americas by well over 100,000 years — as did many other African species, such as lions — would in my mind throw an entirely new light upon the nature of this now ignored site.
For my part, I must confess that such controversies are not of particular interest to me in my current research. Nonetheless, having access to images externalized by a hominid species does provide me with some very interesting points-of-contrast in relation to how humans construct composites of images; and this in turn has allowed me to fine-tune my understanding of imaging consciousness, and an important corollary — volitional memory. Perhaps a little more interesting, however, is the fact that there are image aspects created by these hominids that I know I CAN'T see: I can tell that the non-conscious processes whereby these hominids imaged their world are different than mine. Sometimes I can coax images out of this example through some radical approaches to image editing; but there are definitely image composites there that my eye just does not discern. It appears that these hominids were particularly adept at discerning image composites from texture-based visual fields — something that I, as a human, do not seem to have an innate predilection toward.
That being said, there is obviously a significant overlap between the non-conscious neurology that processed imaging for these hominids, and that which enables similar abilities in humans. I can see many of the images they produced on this example; but I can also sense there are things going on visually that my mind simply does not resolve into conscious imagery. I suppose this is analogous to some of the examples cited in Goodale and Milner's "Sight Unseen", wherein they document cases of people who have had specific areas of their visual processing systems destroyed through tragic accidents (often, through near-asphyxia from carbon monoxide poisoning). In some such cases, people so affected by what is termed "visual form agnosia," can "see" objects but cannot resolve them within consciousness as being visually distinct.
But that is an extreme example; and it is in fact quite different from another aspect of anametric image writing that is inevitably encountered of other human producers: for, it seems we each produce conscious imagery through non-conscious processes a little differently. Indeed, this inherent productive variance is so pronounced that each person will experience differences within themselves, even when viewing the same objective field; and this, in accordance with minor variations in lighting, and view angle! An image resolved in one moment may disappear in the next; or, areas seemingly void of images might suddenly populate with them under different lighting conditions. And while this might at first glance preclude anametric image writing from functioning as a form of communication, in fact the opposite is true: this form of writing accentuates the differential textures demanded by writing. Indeed, this was an initial criticism I directed toward the Middle Eastern origin of writing: that a simple correspondence between image and object, as with any account kept in number, does not convey the variable nature of real events as they occur in time.
What we should therefore expect of anametric image writing, then, would be that those who used it would have had the habit of discussing together what they were seeing; and that "reading" would tend to be a communal process directed toward reaching a consensus regarding what was written. This being the case, it is not a contradiction to note that the First Nations use oral histories AND that they have always been a literate culture. There is no contradiction in this, because anametric image writing is not a phonetic form of writing. There is no contradiction in maintaining an oral history through a spoken language, and at the same time using a visual form of writing: that is simply a cultural difference from what is common in Western European cultures. Indeed, such a consensus-based approach to reading makes it much easier to demonstrate how anametric image writing would have existed as what Jean-Paul Sartre called "a non-subjective transcendental field": that is, a shared body of knowledge established through structural relationships that remain consistent across multiple users, without any single person or instance of use being held as definitional for that knowledge field.
This is the approach Edmund Husserl took when seeking to define the nature of geometry as a distinct body of knowledge in its own right, distinguishable from any specific examples of applied geometric principles ever invoked by any historical geometer; and Jacques Derrida would later adapt this approach to his study of writing, in defining grammatological relationships as the cohesive principle which establishes writing in non-subjective, transcendental fields of knowledge — that is, as capable of conveying information beyond a single individual and across great historical gulfs of lost time.