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The Origin of Writing

by John Barclay-Morton


SUBSTANTIATION:

Substantiating Anametric Image Writing

Although it is odd that the existence of anametric image writing has never been documented by Western academia, would be very strange indeed for no trace of this form of writing to exist anywhere else at all. Indeed, were that the case, we would need to seriously question its very existence! But as Deleuze and Guattari note, concepts do not spring out of nothing; and given how prevalent the use of anametric image writing appears to have been, we should be able to find trace correlations in cultures other than those of a Western European origin that substantiate the existence of anametric image writing.

I am going to examine two such traces: one which substantiates the internal characteristics — the conceptual endoconsistency — or anametric image writing; and one which correlates with external references — the exoconsistency of anametric image writing. For the first example, I am using a story from First Nations culture; and for the second, a myth from Chinese culture.

Endoconsistency: A First Nations Story

I must confess at the outset here, that I didn't just stumble upon the following story: I went looking for it. And it wasn't difficult to find, either. Knowing from my research that patterns of stars are often depicted in anametric image writing as configurations of animal image elements — much as the traditional Western constellations we are all familiar with — I simply kept my eye open for any stories from the First Nations that referenced "stars."

The correlation between the random scatter of stars in the sky above and the random patterns of grain in the stone most commonly used as a substrate for anametric image writing should be obvious to all: both exhibit entirely chaotic grouping patterns, and engage any eye seeking a semblance of order in a similar fashion.

The following story was collected by Franz Boas during a series of trips undertaken to the Northwest Coast, generally with Victoria on Vancouver Island as his base of operations. These trips were conducted in 1886, 1888, 1889, and 1890.

Legends of the Lukungun: The Wives of the Stars

“There was once a chief who had two daughters. During the summer the people moved to a camp where they fished for salmon. One day the girls went into the forest. At night they lay down among the trees and looked at the stars. The elder sister said, “I wish the big star up there (Jupiter) would be my husband.” And the younger one said, “I wish the red star there (Mars) would be my husband.” Then they fell asleep. When they awoke, they found themselves in a strange land. The stars had taken them into the sky. Now they saw that the stars were men."

The period of time when Franz Boas conducted his fieldwork on the Northwest Coast were tumultuous for the First Nations, to say the least. Although there had been regular contact with Europeans from the 1700s onward, it wasn't until the beginning of the Cariboo Gold Rush, from 1860 through 1865, that a European presence on the Northwest Coast became pervasive. The end of the American Civil War in 1865 brought a large influx of American fortune seekers, and in part prompted the consolidation of British North America into the nation of Canada in 1867. British Columbia did not join Canada until 1871 — on the promise of a trans-continental railway. This railway was constructed between 1881 and 1885; so by the time of Boas first trip, regular trade and traffic with eastern Canada was an established fact — but the city of Victoria had first been colonized in 1843, so all of these changes had occurred within a period of about 40 years.

Along with the first European settlers had come the early Christian missionaries — a curious collection of individuals that worshipped a man and his son, who lived in the sky. I don't think the missionaries identified them as Jupiter and Mars; but apart from Venus, which is visible only at dawn and dusk (because it is between the Earth and the Sun) — and of course excluding the Moon — these are the two brightest objects in the night sky.

"The shiny star’s eyes were sick. And what they had wished for came to pass. The stars became their husbands. The following day their husbands told them to go out and collect onions. But they forbade them to dig up the bulbs as is done on earth; instead, they were only allowed to cut off the stalks. To start with, the women obeyed, but one day the eldest sister said, “I simply must eat an onion again.” She dug one up and to their amazement they were looking down upon the earth through the hole."

It is difficult to say why the sky people had sick eyes, or what the effect of this sickness might be — apparently, we might assume, they could not see certain things that members of the First Nations held to be readily apparent.

We do know that the early missionaries did their best to suppress any First Nations cultural practices that they could: indeed, it seems that examples of anametric image writing were misidentified as gambling dice (because they were small, round, white objects with black dots) — and their possession was forbidden by missionaries, as "tools of the devil."

Oddly, though, the oral storytelling of the First Nations was still encouraged — but in a certain fashion. Very early along in the history of European contact with the First Nations, Jesuit missionaries had taken to collecting Indigenous stories and "translating" them — with the addition of elements taken from the Bible, such as great floods and such. The idea was to convince their superiors in Europe — particularly in Rome — that the First Nations were not a people forsaken by God, and were deserving of help from Christian missionaries. It wasn't long, though, before the "adapted" stories were being translated back into First Nations languages — to serve as an introduction to the Bible, and to insert Biblical themes into First Nations culture.

All of which must have seemed very strange to members of the First Nations: after all, there would always have been a direct connection between anametric image writing and oral storytelling. One would expect that spoken stories would grow from any reading of anametric image writing; much as, say, an onion sprouts new growth — even as it builds up layer upon layer in its bulb. Layers, like those found from the Second Material Epoch of anametric image writing onward; that is, the era when the Stone Astrolabe was constructed — when the survey and event mapping of traditional territories was an accomplished fact.

"When they arrived home, they didn’t say anything about this. They still went to the forest as before to gather onion stalks. But now they made a long rope there, without anyone knowing about it. When they thought that it was long enough, they made a big hole in the ground and the oldest daughter crawled down. She said to her sister, “You wait here. When I have arrived down there safely, I’ll shake the rope; then follow me down. Otherwise assume that I’ve fallen into the sea.” The younger sister then lowered the rope. At last the woman landed on Mount Nga’k-un (some miles above the upper part of Victoria Harbor). There, she walked back and forth over a long distance and pulled the rope to and fro. Thus she was able at last to shake it a little bit and her sister up in the sky felt some very weak movements."

It is an interesting comment, and a telling part of this story: that with a very long rope, one must move across very large distances to make even the slightest change at the far end. This is exactly the kind of insight that would have long been established as integral to the practices of survey and mapping that underlay the creation of event maps within anametric image writing — an immediate familiarity with the relationship between angular displacement and distance relative to shared reference points ("Sacred Mountains") on a visual horizon.

She tied the rope to a tree up there, clasped it with her hands and legs and climbed down. The elder sister sat down below and looked up. Finally she saw a small moving dot. It grew bigger and bigger and then she recognized her sister. Her legs had become quite crooked from climbing so long. She had scarcely arrived at the bottom, when the rope fell down. The people in the sky had missed the women and when they discovered the rope, they cut it.

Whatever is being described here — and as Deleuze and Guattari note, concepts are not made out of t=nothing, they do not appear magically from nowhere — the "apparition" ('that which appears, insofar as it appears') of the second sister serves as a particularly apt description of Substantiation, as it occurs in the creation of anametric image writing: a small black mark is noted; and its edges are enlarged, modified by removing progressively more of the surrounding white matrix of rock, until the area of black stone grain grows into the recognizable schematic outline of whichever image in consciousness motivated this productive activity.

"Then the women went to their home. Their mother had quite forgotten them because they had been away for so long. Her hair had become gray and her eyes dim from weeping so much. They hide close to a pond. Soon, their youngest sister arrived to fetch water. Her hair was cropped because she still mourned for her lost sisters. So they stroked her hair and immediately it became long again. The girl ran back and said, “My sisters are sitting out there by the pond.” The old people said, “Don’t be silly,” and forbade her to say this. She went out once more and, after she had seen her sisters again, she ran back and repeated that her sisters were by the pond. When she said it for the third time, her mother beat her. So she went out again. Each time she came to the pond, her sisters stroked her hair and it became longer and longer. Then she ran back the fourth time, pointed to her long hair and said that her sisters had made it so long. So the old people thought that she might be telling the truth, after all. They went to the pond and found the women. The girls stroked their mother's hair and at once it became long and black again.“

Anyone familiar with the history of the Residential School System in Canada will find all too much that is far too familiar in this part of the story: children having been taken away from their parents; endless mourning at the loss; but also, a break between younger generations, and the old ways. Members of the First Nations, both men and women, traditionally wear their hair long; and missionaries have always tended to frown upon this, and promote short hair. Often, cropping the hair of children closely was the first act of those overseeing the Residential Schools over their new charges — because it was a more European look for the children.

And it is interesting, too, that this element of violence has inserted itself into First Nations culture; because traditionally, children are allowed to do pretty much what they want to be doing, as long as they stay within the traditional range of the village where they live. Also of interest is the fact that the sisters are staying at a pool near the village: I certainly don't know many of the cultural connotations of this, but I do know from other stories that areas inland were considered removed from danger, since most interactions with others occurred along the sea coast. Certainly, most Europeans would have been encountered at tidewater in this period — it was a rare European who set out inland from the sea's edge; so I think it safe to say that areas inland were considered at that time to be more truly aligned with traditional culture.

“A younger man who obeys the laws scrupulously, bathes frequently and has never touched a woman, is able to see the rope on Mount Nga’k-un. It is invisible for other people.”

Franz Boas, “Indian Myths and Legends from the North Pacific Coast of America”; page 171.
Translated from the 1895 edition by Dietrich Bertz.
Copyright 2002 by the B.C Indian Language Project and Dietrich Bertz.


A few additional aspects of this story stand out. Notice that all of the main characters are women — yet the final "summary" sentence refers to "a younger man"? That seems a bit odd, doesn't it?

How does "the moral of this story" become one wherein young men are admonished to bath frequently and not touch women — so that they can see the rope that connects up to the sky people? That is, the very rope that was used to ESCAPE from the sky people!

I mean, really: What's up with THAT?

Well, my reading of this tory is that it is very much the product of a transitional period, wherein European culture is being imposed upon the First Nations — with both sides, to some extent, having their say. Note that in 1847, four years after the city of Victoria on Vancouver Island was first settled by Europeans: "Egerton Ryerson produces a study of native education at the request of the assistant superintendent general of Indian affairs. His findings become the model for future Indian residential schools. Ryerson recommends that domestic education and religious instruction is the best model for the Indian population. The recommended focus is on agricultural training and government funding will be awarded through inspections and reports."

This was Official Government Policy, from the time of the first European colonists on the Northwest Coast onward: a policy embraced and upheld by the Christian Churches and their missionaries — for a profit.

Exoconsistency: A Chinese "Myth" Reconsidered

I think that the above story has enough points of conceptual comparison for us to say that it demonstrates a familiarity with anametric image writing on the part of whomever composed it. Knowing what we do about anametric image writing — although that is less than what would have been known by someone who used it throughout the course of their life — gave us enough insight into the story's internal structure to understand the underlying narrative.

This gives us a very convincing example of conceptual endoconsistency holding between the historical characteristics of anametric image writing and the conceptual components of a story in the First Nations oral tradition; can we also find an example of exoconsistency to further substantiate the existence of anametric image writing?

I believe we can; and the example I have chosen for this is one of the most difficult to prove that I can find: something that is doubly improbably, pterodactyls considered as dragons.

Conventional wisdom holds that pterodactyls died out tens of millions of years ago — long before our hominid lineage even existed; but, they did at lest exist. Dragons, by contrast, are considered to be wholly mythical creatures — something that never saw the light of any day breaking, ever.

Of course, anametric image writing isn't supposed to exist, either; so let's see where all of this might take us.

The Red Pterodactyl Stone

The particular example of anametric image writing I have chosen for this little exercise in establishing exoconsistent relationships is a personal favorite of mine. It is one which was left for me to find, sitting on a very large drift log that I use to sit upon at high tide, on the beach of a Northern Gulf Island located between the mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. At that time, I was waiting to hear if an article I had submitted on the initial stages of my research had been accepted for publication by Semiotext[e] (it was); and, I was continuing along in the ‘field work phase' of that project.

One day, I was walking along beside the ocean at low tide: suddenly, a very large sea otter popped out of the ocean, looked around, and then began bounding across the beach in front of me before disappearing into the driftwood piled above the high tide line. Curious, I followed (because sea otters are so interesting, not to mention cute) and, while looking around to see where that sea otter had gone, I found this rock, sitting by itself, on a large drift log! I had been sitting on that log a day or two earlier, at high tide, and this stone hadn’t been there, then. Had I first found that stone, and then taken to sitting on that log to see if someone might drop by to see me, eventually that otter would have come running across the beach toward me; and that would have been an unforgettable experience, too: because the sea otters there are very large indeed (that one must have been between four and five feet long, from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail).

Sea otters hold a special place in the mythologies of the Northwest Coast, because they use stones to crack open clams and other mollusks; and the pounding action they use in doing this has always been associated with the activity of making stone tools.

The Stone Astrolabe that I have shown elsewhere on this site also turned up for me in a similar fashion: except that artifact was sitting on a rock shelf at the water’s edge at low tide, with no other stones anywhere near it; and this happened five years later, on another island hundreds of miles away, on another beach that I was in the habit of walking along regularly. Then, I wasn’t following an otter; I was accompanying my four year old daughter in her shoreline ‘explorations.’

On this particular stone, which I happened upon by following that otter, one specific image area quickly caught my eye. Of course, I was looking at lots of stones at that time; but this one is more colorful than most of the examples I work with, so I paid it particular attention. Looking closely at it, I noticed a fairly large (as such images go) and beautifully fashioned bird. Looking more closely, it seemed to me that this bird had teeth. When I photographed this image area, and made an enlargement, I discovered that it wasn’t a bird after all; because, it definitely had teeth. It was in fact the image of a “dragon”: a residual species of pterodactyl.

Since pterodactyls are generally assumed to have become extinct 65 million years ago, we do need to do our due diligence in establishing that this is in fact an image of such a creature. By way of correlation, we can compare together: this image; traditional descriptions of dragons from Chinese history; what is known of pterodactyls from the fossil record; and of course, the other images of pterodactyls I have happened upon.

Incidentally, the Stone Astrolabe also shows images of pterodactyls.

Dragons in Chinese Culture

A dragon flying: upswing and downbeat of wings

So: this particular image is of a pterodactyl, which apparently were not nearly as extinct from 65 million years ago on as is commonly supposed. In this specific example of anametric image writing, the animal in question is shown standing on two legs; and, it is quite obviously not a hominid. It would be reasonable to assume that its two upper limbs are wings; and indeed, it is also shown in flight — in the detail on the right, in two images immediately above/below each other, and an area of white stone between; with its wings up (upper black silhouette) and wings down (lower black silhouette).

No doubt there are still a few stories in existence about such creatures on the Northwest Coast — I don't think this is the kind of thing quickly forgotten by any culture. Indeed, one would expect few creatures would leave as indelible a mark upon human culture as something like this could, dropping from the sky unexpectedly to ravage whatever had caught its attention.

Since it is not really all that far, as the crow (or dragon) flies, from the northern edge of North America to Asia, one would expect that the odd story regarding these creatures might turn up in Chinese culture. Well, that's certainly understating the case: dragons are a major theme in Chinese history and culture, as pretty well everyone knows. So let's take a look at Chinese dragons, and see how they measure up against our image, and what we know about pterodactyls.

The year 2000 in the Western calendar marks the beginning of a new millennium and coincides with the keng chen year of the Chinese astrological system-the Year of the Dragon.

Throughout China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and Indochina, the image of the dragon appears frequently in myth, legend, and art. And in China, the very heart of this "dragon culture," it has played a pivotal role in history. No wonder the Chinese consider themselves the "descendants of the dragon."

But just what is a "dragon," this product of the imagination and the only animal of the Chinese astrological system not found in the natural realm?

Quoting Wang Fu of the Eastern Han Dynasty in his Literary Expositor, Luo Yuan of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) has said: "Wang Fu says that depictions of creatures with the head of a horse and the body of a snake are commonly considered dragon images. But dragons actually have three sections and nine likenesses. The three connected sections are: from the head to the upper leg, from the leg to the abdomen, and from the abdomen to the tail. The nine likenesses are: horns of a stag, head of a camel, eyes of a demon, neck of a snake, belly of a clam, scales of a fish, talons of an eagle, paws of a tiger, and ears of an ox." The product of a special spiritual culture, the dragon combines features from many different animals, including the body of a snake, and elements of fish, birds, and mammals. One of the auspicious animals of ancient China, the dragon's exalted status has had a significant influence on the daily lives and culture of the Chinese for the past 5,000 years.

From its origins as totems or the stylized depiction of natural creatures, the Chinese dragon evolved to become a mythical animal. The Han Dynasty scholar Wang Fu recorded Chinese myths that long dragons had nine anatomical resemblances. The people paint the dragon's shape with a horse's head and a snake's tail. Further, there are expressions as 'three joints' and 'nine resemblances' (of the dragon), to wit: from head to shoulder, from shoulder to breast, from breast to tail. These are the joints; as to the nine resemblances, they are the following: his horns resemble those of a stag, his head that of a camel, his eyes those of a demon, his neck that of a snake, his belly that of a clam (shen, 蜃), his scales those of a carp, his claws those of an eagle, his soles those of a tiger, his ears those of a cow. Upon his head he has a thing like a broad eminence (a big lump), called [chimu] (尺木). If a dragon has no [chimu], he cannot ascend to the sky.[5]


Text courtesy US Embassy in Taiwan.


So, there is no shortage of material for us to consider here! The first thing we should take note of is perhaps the least overtly obvious, but at the same time the most important point to consider: Dragons are the only animal in the Chinese zodiac that do not actually exist. This in itself is a little strange, when you stop to think about it; indeed, it is as anomalous as the sudden tact in the First Nations story above, from female characters to the mention of young males. I am sure that there are many commentaries available as to why there is one mythological creature amidst the otherwise existent animals that make up the Chinese zodiac; but perhaps we can find a simpler explanation: Dragons did in fact exist; their existence was duly noted (and indeed, was ignored at one's own peril); and their place in the Chinese zodiac is no different than that of the other animals included therein.

Let's test this hypothesis by examining each of the descriptive correlations offered of dragons in traditional Chinese lore: do these seemingly outlandish correlations bear any resemblance at all to what we actually know about pterodactyls?

Pterodactyl image from the Stone Astrolabe

Horns of a Stag:

There is no sign of any kind of horn upon this particular pterodactyl; however, this particular example is not the only kind of pterosaur known to have existed. In fact, over 100 species of pterosaur have been catalogued; and many did have particularly strange protrusions on their heads:

“Many pterodactyloids had bizarre crests like Tupuxuara’s; some had crests shaped like swords, others like keels.”
Carl Zimmer, “Masters of an Ancient Sky”;
Page 45 in Discover Magazine, February 1994.


A pterodactyl from the Stone Astrolabe, shown on the right, very definitely has the kind of crest described above by Carl Zimmer.

In addition, it must be remembered that traditional Chinese medicine characteristically attributes specific properties to various animal parts; with the leaping abilities of the stag, for instance, being associated with its horns (which are considered to be medicinally associated with vitality). To draw a comparison between the horns of a stag and the crest of a pterodactyl is not simply to mark a visual similarity: in all probability, such an association would also imply a similarity in leaping ability.

Head of a Camel:

Outline of pterodactyl's head in shadow cast by  Red Pterodactyl stone

This pterosaur has a domed skull and an elongated, rounded snout; it is more similar in outline to the head of a camel than perhaps to any other commonly occurring animal. Dragons are also commonly described in Chinese folklore as having the head of a horse; Fu Xi, to whom the invention of writing is attributed in China, is said to have received the knowledge of this art form from a “horse-dragon.” It would seem then that there is a direct visual correlation on this point; and this is confirmed in a secondary image on this stone, which depicts the pterodactyl as seen from a distance, in silhouette. with the side profile of the pterodactyl shown on this stone: the stone itself is shaped in the same form, and actually throws a shadow in this very shape. Clearly, the “camel head” comparison is of an attribute so pronounced that it is in fact thematic to this stone, and was a consideration in the production not just of this pterodactyl image but of the stone’s overall shape.

Eyes of a Demon:

The stare of the pterodactyl depicted on this stone is particularly intense and indeed seems a dominant aspect of the overall image. Clearly, this aspect was something which was outstanding in any experiential encounter with a pterodactyl.

Dr. John R. Baker, in an article on dragons in Chinese culture (‘First Glimpse’, Internal Arts Magazine, Vol. 6, #2, Spring 1991), notes that dragons were described as having “a penetrating gaze which could hypnotize its victim.” That does seem an accurate description of the stare which this pterodactyl is shown as having. Of course, it would probably be a good idea to not move around so much if something like this was looking in your general direction.

Another image of a different species of pterodactyl that I have was produced in such a way that a piercing green reflective highlight appears in that pterodactyl’s eye when the stone is held at the proper orientation. Clearly, the intense stare of a pterodactyl is a characteristic aspect of these creatures.

If we go to the fossil record, we find something quite interesting: the bone structure around the eyes of a pterodactyl seems to have had a very particular configuration, and looks to have evolved to facilitate quick and accurate movement of the eye — anchoring, in all probability, a circular array of muscles dedicated toward this end.

If we look closely at the dominant eye depicted in this image of a pterodactyl, we can see that the artist who created it took great pains to include a indications of a similar radial array of musculature in this image. thus, we have a direct correlation between our image of a pterodactyl and the fossil record.

Details of pterodactyl eyes

Another pterodactyl image from a different artifact

Neck of a Snake:

Snakes don’t really seem to have any neck at all; or conversely, snakes appear to be all neck, and no body. We might well assume here, then, that the neck of a pterodactyl was snake-like in appearance; and that is certainly the case with this pterodactyl image. Interestingly, this actually helps to locate this particular pterodactyl in evolutionary history:

“This standard pterosaur model persisted for 45 million years. But around 180 million years ago a new version made its appearance. These newer pterosaurs are called pterodactyloids (from the name given to the first member of the group found, Pterodactylus, or “wing finger”; the older pterosaurs are referred to as rhamphorhynchoids). Pterodactyloids manifested some significant changes: their long head grew still longer, yet, because it had lost some bones in the skull, it became even more lightweight. Their neck became flexible and birdlike. They lost some or all of their teeth. Most important, their tail shrank to a stump, making it useless for stabilizing flight. The only way that tail loss can be explained, say paleontologists, is by pterodactyloids’ having developed more sophisticated brains capable of stabilizing flight with quick, small changes to the wings.”
Carl Zimmer, “Masters of an Ancient Sky”;
Page 45 in Discover Magazine, February 1994.


The snake-like neck, the lack of a tail, and the retention of teeth would seem to indicate that this particular species of pterodactyl was a highly evolved version of a very old lineage. We must also suspect that this pterodactyl would have been very smart as animals go, having evolved for tailless flight; and indeed, the intelligence of “dragons” is often referenced as one of their most characteristic attributes. Perhaps, then, it was the gleam of intelligence which made a pterodactyl’s stare so piercing.

Belly of a Clam:

Snakes don’t really appear to have necks; and clams don’t appear to have readily evident bellies. I think it safe to conclude here that dragons were not being described as having the same kind of stomach as a clam does; and in all probability, it is a visual comparison which is being asserted here.

What every clam does have is a shell; and in fact that is pretty much all that there is to see of any clam's outward appearance. All clam shells have concentric growth bands on their surface; and apart from their characteristic ‘clamshell’ shape, there isn't much more to notice about a clam. It would thus seem probably that, whatever aspect of a pterodactyl’s abdominal area is being described here, it would have had the appearance of concentric striations or parallel bands.

As it turns out, there is every reason to think that pterodactyls did indeed have exactly that appearance:

“Paleontologists have long noted that some pterosaurs fossil wings bear thin parallel ridges. Peter Wellnhofer, the curator of the Bavarian State Museum in Munich, argued in 1987 that these ridges represent tough fibers, possibly made of the protein collagen, sandwiched inside the wing to provide stiffness. Recently, (Kevin) Padian and Jeremy Rayner, a zoologist at the University of Bristol in England, found that the tips of pterosaur wings support this idea. Since bats have an elastic membrane that they pull tight, their wing comes to a sharp point. But while studying a particularly well preserved pterosaur in Germany, Padian and Rayner discovered that its wing tip forms a blunted curve. Such a shape requires some internal stiffening, such as could have been provided by fibers.”

“This pterosaur had been preserved in a belly-up position, exposing the underside of its wings. Padian and Rayner found that at the trailing edge some of the fibers had apparently separated from the wing and were lying on top of it at an angle, leaving behind corresponding grooves on the wing itself. The way the fibers had frayed indicates that rather than being sandwiched inside the wing, as many paleontologists had imagined, they lined the underside like the ribbing of an umbrella.”
Carl Zimmer, “Masters of an Ancient Sky”;
Page 46 in Discover Magazine, February 1994.


It thus seems quite likely that pterodactyls had bands of parallel reinforcing fibers which ran across the underside of their wings; and presumably, across their bellies where such fibers would need to be anchored in order to function as a stiffening mechanism for the wings.

You can compare for yourself, the actual "Dark Wing" fossil (below left) and the shell of a clam (below, right).

The pterodactyl fossil called Dark Wing
Detail of a pterodactyl's teeth

Scales of a Fish:

There is no indication of fish scales in this image of a pterodactyl; nor is there any note made of the fossilized remains of pterodactyl exhibiting scale-like patterns. Quite the opposite, in fact: there are some fossilized examples of pterodactyls which appear to show the presence of some kind of fur-like covering. Still, scales would not be an unexpected feature for something of reptilian ancestry; so that seems the least initially improbable aspect of this description so far.

Dr. Baker notes that dragons were also described as having “scales under its neck...that projected outward and could kill a human.” Examining the pterodactyl image we have before us, we can clearly see some structures below the head, in the vicinity of the neck: the pterodactyl’s teeth. Could these teeth have in fact been some form of modified scale?

One of these “teeth” seems to be shown ‘flaking’ off; and this might indeed indicate that these “teeth” were in fact modified scales, kept sharp by their constant flaking and the consequent exposure of new edges which would have resulted; but that is merely conjecture. At present, I do not have any direct correlation between this traditional aspect of dragons, the image of this pterodactyl, and the fossil record of pterodactyls.

Talons of an Eagle:

Pterodactyl wing claws

As Carl Zimmer noted earlier, pterodactyls had three fingers which were equipped with claws; and these were located mid-wing, with the “pinkie” finger extending through the rest of the wing’s length.

We can see how prominent this feature was on pterodactyls from fossil reconstructions — and fossils of tracks left behind by pterodactyls that had walked through mud.

Paws of a Tiger:

Pterodactyls are not, technically speaking, dinosaurs per say; so it isn't actually a contradiction to say that dinosaurs went completely extinct 65 million years ago (although, they didn't entirely die out until much, much later) but pterodactyls somehow managed to survive into historical times.

Fossilized pterdoactyl tracks

One of the features that sets pterodactyls apart from the majority of dinosaurs is there feet: pterodactyls have five toes on each foot, whereas dinosaurs for the most part have three (a similarity they share with birds).

Apart from the fossilized skeletal remains of pterodactyls, trackways have also been discovered where the impressions of pterodactyl feet remain preserved. Although they might overtly resemble birds, pterodactyls had very distinctive feet that were structurally more akin to those of mammalian predators such as tigers.

Ears of an Ox:

Again, no such ear-like structure is evident of pterodactyls; but judging by the nature of the other comparisons we have examined, this might simply be indicating that pterodactyls had hearing that was as sensitive as that of an animal which is often preyed upon by carnivores.

If we examine the frequency range for the hearing of oxen and cattle, we find that it significantly exceeds that of humans. Also of interest: when reading about animal husbandry as it pertains to cattle and oxen, one often finds reference to the fact that these animals will 'pretend' not to hear the verbal instructions of their handlers. Knowing now of the pterodactyl's latent intelligence, it would not be unexpected that these creatures might pretend not to hear or notice a person — until they were ready to pounce.

That would certainly be an aspect of dragon behavior worth noting!

A pterodactyl calls

Also Of Note

Dr. John R. Baker also comments upon a few other characteristics attributed in Chinese culture to dragons: that they had “a voice like a gong”; and that they were noted for “rising high and dropping low”, as well as “being carried high aloft on air currents” and “swooping down to wreak destruction”.

These are characteristics well worth commenting upon; and indeed, this pterosaur is shown, with its head turned to the right, emitting some such sound. Note how even in this image the teeth of the animal are clearly shown, as black detail on the red extension of the pterodactyl’s face; and that the speed of a pterodactyl’s strike is alluded to by the black arrowhead above the tip of the pterodactyl’s (red) snout.

What has inferred from the fossil record of the flight habits of pterodactyls is entirely consistent with the account Dr. Baker provides:

“Rayner and Hazelhurst found that the combination of long, thin wings and slender, lightweight bodies made large pterosaurs very aerodynamically efficient, able to soar on the weakest of rising air currents. Many of the largest pterosaurs may have been like today’s frigate bird: perhaps they soared hundreds of miles over the ocean, grabbing fish or harassing other pterosaurs to surrender their catches.”
Carl Zimmer, “Masters of an Ancient Sky”;
Page 51 in Discover Magazine, February 1994.


Image composite of a pterodactyl, in flight and standing on the ground

It seems quite probable that pterodactyls could have easily traversed the short distance between mainland Alaska and northern Asia, particularly if given a strong tail wind.

All in all, I think that a solid case can be made for considering "myths" of dragons to have been based upon encounters with residual species of pterodactyl. The correspondences between classical descriptions of "dragons" from Chinese literature, the fossil record of pterodactyls, and the evidence afforded by anametric image writing all seem to point toward this inevitable conclusion.

In any event, this possibility has certainly provided us with an unparalleled opportunity to explore exoconsistency in the context of anametric image writing.

The World's Oldest Written Joke

Unfortunately, the written records which have survived from so early a point in Chinese history are few; and those which did survive to our present day have done so for the most part in a truncated form. The first emperor of a unified China ordered all books to be burned in 213 B.C., in an attempt to abolish all knowledge from the time prior to his reign. In addition, all written records in China were ordered to be condensed - paraphrased - in the fifth century A.D. and again in the thirteenth century A.D. This may help to explain the very truncated form in which the traditional description of dragons quoted above has survived.

Given the breadth of the correlations we managed to establish above, it does appear that we are looking here at the image of a pterodactyl. But we are not simply looking at the image of a singular creature: we are looking at this image within the context of anametric image writing. With this in mind, there is one specific area I would like to examine on this stone, and to "read."

The world's oldest written joke

The precise area I would like to focus upon is above the back of this animal, where the wings appear to fold when not being used for flight.

A person reads a stone as a pterodactyl looks over their shoulder

Looking at two other examples of pterodactyl image, we can see what appears to be a fairly characteristic configuration of such folded wings, which are consistently shown protruding above the pterodactyl’s body.

Viewing that area on this particular stone, we see the same general configuration in shape; but we can also clearly see that this characteristic shape has been modified to show something which is quite different than the featureless outline of folded wings.

The shape of the left wing tip which our eyes trace is instantly familiar to anyone today; it is something we all see countless times every day, but in a modern form. Where today we might see someone holding a cell phone in exactly this way, to read or send a text message; or holding an MP3 player they are shuffling through music on: here, we also see the outline of a person looking at something in their hand. Presumably, a stone; assumedly, this very stone. They are reading the images on the stone in their hand; which is to say, they are in effect (or affect, as we shall see in a moment) whomever is looking at this stone in the moment that this is happening.

I think we can safely presume that no person would ever have stood so casually upon a pterodactyl’s back and, finding themselves there, take the time to look at a stone. Everything we know of ‘dragons’ from mythology strongly suggests they would not have been inclined to gladly suffer such an indignity.

Sculpted pterodactyl head

We must therefore be looking at an image modification: we are in fact looking at a conceptual formation, at an intentional variance from what would be encountered through direct visual perception.

The folded wing shown on the right has also been modified; and it shows the head of a pterodactyl (not the same pterodactyl shown in the image we just analyzed, but one with a characteristically elongated head): a pterodactyl that is looking over the shoulder of the person who is looking at the stone in their hand.

We are, in fact, looking at the world’s oldest written joke: “There is one right behind you!”

Presumably (hopefully) there isn’t; but in an age when pterodactyls still roamed the skies, who wouldn’t look, just to be sure? And even today, many people take exception to someone else reading over their shoulder; so here, we can all recognize the dynamic of unease followed by that sense of relief which so often elicits laughter. This would of course always be laughter at one’s own unwarranted unease: in other words, this joke is contingent upon the ability of those who read it to be aware of their own consciousness as such. This joke is only funny for people who have developed an established consciousness-of-self.

Just thinking about someone picking up this stone; looking at it; recognizing the ‘dragon’ image; continuing to trace with their eyes the figural outlines of symbolic schema found there, looking for more information pertaining to pterodactyls; and slowly but surely cognizing the positional relationship holding between themselves and the possibility of a real pterodactyl standing right behind them... well, that is still pretty funny.

But it is more than just humorous; because it would not be possible for a person to conceive of such a joke without being fully conscious of, and able to remember at will, their own thought processes. Nor would there be any purpose to composing such a joke, unless it were going to be shared with others who had also attained consciousness-of-self. This particular example of anametric image writing elegantly demonstrates that we can only be dealing here with an interpersonal and transcendental field which is demonstrably characterized by consciousness-of-self: that is to say, a form of image writing used by an entire community of self-conscious individuals.

The world’s oldest written joke could only have been created by someone who was fully in possession of a consciousness-of-self, as a member of an extended field of social organization wherein all other individuals were also fully self-conscious.

Only a person who was fully aware of their own thought processes as such would be able to motivate the thought processes of someone else by modifying an external object in a way which is still so readily identifiable as humor. This joke does not become funny until the person reading it becomes retroactively cognizant of their own thought processes in reading the joke, after having ‘fallen’ for that joke.

If we had been wondering how consciousness-of-self could become unmistakably apparent within anametric image writing, here is our incontrovertible answer.

Here we have a clear proof demonstrating consciousness-of-self, occurring in what must necessarily be defined as a form of writing.

We might wonder at the age of this artifact; but in this we can expect no help from the existent fossil record of pterodactyls in North America: their delicate, hollow bones are notoriously fragile and very rarely survive in a fossilized form. There are other animals depicted on this stone, however: there is at least one species of big cat. The bones of big cats are an entirely different matter, and are sturdy enough to have left a considerable record of their presence in North America. Their particular place in this fossil record tells us that, in all probability, we are looking at an artifact would be at least 10,000 years old.

This is an artifact from the Third Material Epoch of First Nations’ culture, when techniques for shaping solid pieces of granite had been developed and were commonly employed in the production of stone tools. There is a very long developmental history to the evolution of anametric image writing which precedes that point in history; and we must thus acknowledge that consciousness-of-self was already a long and firmly established fact for members of the First Nations when the world’s oldest written joke was composed.

If we were asked to choose a point of origin for writing, and given a choice between: the use of symbols to represent material goods in the Middle East ~5,000 years ago; and, the use of signs to produce written jokes in North America ~10,000 years ago, really, it becomes pretty obvious that writing originated with the First Nations of North America.

And of course, members of the First Nations are known to this day for their excellent sense of humor.

A Second Look

As I have mentioned before, working with anametric image writing very quickly reveals how the image composites one finds there can and will change under different lighting conditions, as well as when viewed from different angles. To illustrate this, let's take another look at that area on the pterodactyls back, where "The World's Oldest Written Joke" is found.

By changing the lighting, and the direction from which this image area is viewed, a subtle shift in this image occurs: instead of a person standing and looking at a stone with a pterodactyl behind them, we see a person climbing up a cliff face to find a pterodactyl in its nest.

Interestingly, we can also see the same kind of event being depicted elsewhere — by a different species, on The Hominid Stone! There, we see a (or, at least one) hominid — holding a club — also climbing up a cliff to find a pterodactyl. This time, however, it is a much smaller pterodactyl (presumably an infant or a juvenile), and the hominid has a smile on its face — so we can imagine that things didn't turn out well for the pterodactyl.

It has been speculated that pterodactyls underwent a rapid period of growth in their youth, a time during which they were more or less confined to their nests. This image would seem to suggest that might have been true.

Pterodactyls on cliffs; hominids hunting a young pterodactyl

So now, with reference to our earlier considerations regarding the possibility that prolonged exposure to the extreme cold of Ice Age conditions triggered the development of self consciousness in humans, we must also note here that any hominids arriving in North America would have been exposed to the same Arctic conditions.

And although the image composites left by that species of hominid are less evolved than those which humans produced, they are nonetheless executed with exceptional skill. As I have noted before, we humans may not be able to fully appreciate the images created by these hominids — it seems that the weighting of our basic neurological processes are different enough that we simply do not perceive images in exactly the same way. For one thing, it seems that the olfactory sense of these hominids was more acute than that of we humans (but I won't go into the grounds for my saying this, here); and that may have both limited their development of an imaging consciousness, and yet at the same time enhanced that development in ways we humans do not experience.

It is interesting to speculate, though, on the differences between this species' abilities to conceptualize, and ours — based upon the differences in the images created by each; but once again, I won't go into that here.

I will instead just leave you with one parting comment, and image: although I have not found any examples of hominid jokes, I do have an image of two hominids sharing a laugh — shown below.

Two hominids share a joke

I am also going to point out what I consider to be a painfully obvious fact: something intelligent enough to create images, that carries a club around, walks on two feet, and has a good foot or two in height and a couple of hundred pounds in weight over and above what the average human can boast — well, something like that should be considered REALLY DANGEROUS.

"Others want to go check it out, but elders advise the people to leave it."
“We saw what we saw; we’ll just leave it alone now,” said the man.

Some Final Considerations

If there is one thing we can learn from our encounter with images created by hominids, it is precisely what Jacques Derrida demonstrated through deconstruction: when we push past the point where any structured information system maintains its coherence, when we force the philosophemes basing any organized field of information to extend beyond the applicability of their reach, we begin to see breaks, fractures, and other forms of interpretive striations opening — and the “otherness” of an “outside” becomes apparent.

In that it is apparent we, as humans, do not perceive images as hominids did, we must therefore recognize that such variance in visual processing is a reality; and consequently, we must also entertain the possibility that not all humans necessarily perceive images the same way. Specifically, we must consider the notion that perhaps our current culture’s endless engagement with flat surfaces — screens, the printed page, posters, pavement, walls, floors, windows, and so on, everywhere — may well have trained us incrementally and incessantly away from the ability to visually process the partial dimensionalities of anametric image writing.

If this is true, then the converse could also be the case: that the partial dimensionalities of anametric image writing would proved a way to extend the reach of our visual processing beyond where it is currently deployed within our information systems.

There is another possibility with which we must contend: if we agree that dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, yet we have found images of pterodactyls that apparently survived as a species into historical times, then we can’t really rely upon the given extinction dates of pleistocene mammals in establishing a timeline for anametric image writing. If pterodactyls managed to persist long after their supposed extinction, then perhaps North American lions and mammoths were not entirely extinct by 11,000 years ago. That being said, other avian dinosaurs certainly flourished after that extinction, and the world has an abundance of bird species that illustrate this fact.

In truth, though, neither issue is overly important to us here: what we are primarily interested in is the developmental progression of anametric image writing’s evolution, regardless of any corresponding linear time line.

What interests us most here are the relationships holding between specific instances of anametric image writing and the corresponding bioregions in which they were each produced.