The Origin of Writing

by John Barclay-Morton


Visiting the United Nations

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Site Contents


An introduction to the concept of anametric image writing.

Concerning This Research

Some important considerations regarding the work I have posted on this site.

The Standard Model

The generally accepted story about writing's origin.


Some issues to bear in mind when considering the standard story of writing's origin.

Anametric Image Writing

An introduction to the previously undocumented form of writing examined within this site.


An overview of this research: factors contributing to its non-recognition and undocumented status; the essential nature of this form of writing; distinguishing graphemic from phonetic forms of writing; working directly with concepts; and placing this form of writing within the context of a world-wide, historical perspective.

On Seeing Images

Considering the phenomenon of pareidolia, in the context of research into the neurology of vision conducted by Melvyn Goodale and David Milner. Examining the shared neural processing of images we all share, which allows us to grasp images created tens of thousands of years ago by members of a very different culture than any we find intact today. A first look at Jean Paul Sartre's seminal work on imaging consciousness, "The Imaginary"; and an introduction to the work done regarding the nature of concepts by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Taken together, we find: we all visually process images with the same basic neurology; images are directly processed into concepts; and concepts can be analyzed in specific ways to yield definitive insights into the processes of thought that produce(d) them.

Anametric Image Writing Isn't About Petroglyphs

The essential difference between phonetic forms of writing and anametric image writing. Avoiding the misapprehension of anametric image writing as a simple system of petroglyphs, comparable to an immensely simplified form of phonetic writing. Jean Paul Sartre on the conceptual understanding of schema and other graphemic signs.

Producing Image Composites as Concepts

Immersing ourselves in the conceptual world of long-ago people, through the internal fusion of components (the endoconsistencies) and the external relationships of connectivity (the exoconsistencies) that make up any concept.

Developmental Stages in the Historical Production of Anametric Image Composites

Considering the role played by the production of stone tools in the emergence of anametric image writing.

A Fundamental World Heritage

Placing anametric image writing upon the horizon of world history, in context of the forms of writing known to have been used by adjacent cultures. Approaching anametric image writing from the science of linguistics, through the philosophy of language: determining linguistic functions that are characteristic of semiology, rather than the phonetic meanings that inform signification.


A bit about who I am, and what I've been trying to do here. Quite a bit more about the people who invented and used this form of image writing; the very early history of North America; and, distinguishing references to a specific person from within this form of image writing.

Starting Out

A little bit about myself, and my initial experiences in trying to find some manner of prior reference to the kind of artifact I am documenting through this website. People I spoke with; and my own background that inspired me to persevere in this research. An introduction to the work of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada — and to their conclusions regarding the way that First Nations culture has been actively suppressed. I submitted a draft of my research toThe Commission in 2010, as documentation of one aspect of First Nations culture that was suppressed through the Residential School System.

The First North Americans

An image of an early arrival in North America — and images of those who created this image. A reconsideration of archaeologist Louis Leakey's North American interests.

Dressing for an Age of Ice

A very singular piece of sculpture, presenting a parka-clad family of unguessed age.

Writing the Collectivity of Singular Lives

A somewhat dateable example of anametric image writing, which presents images of both short faced bears and mammoths — meaning it must be at least 10,000 years old. Considering the idea of "conceptual personae": an approach to personalizing constellations of conceptual structure. The three fundamental aspects of philosophy, each of which can be examined within examples of anametric image writing. Placing conceptual personae in the context of geophilosophy through abandoning analysis that is structured in terms of subject and object dichotomies. Singularities and points of view; non-subjective transcendental fields of knowledge: piecing together insights by tracing the contours of what is before us, instead of what we expect to see. Benjamin Lee Whorf's groundbreaking insights into the structural aspects of north America's non-European languages.

The Three Feather Chief

The iterable, and differential repetition: that which can be written, and which is written differently — as an example of a conceptual persona.


A look at what we are doing when trying to construct a theory: what is brought together, what is left out, and how are those decisions made? A few examples to illustrate how contentious these decision-making processes can become. A really contentious observation: that this form of image writing appears to be, in some instances, based upon a very advanced system for surveying and mapping territory. Some speculation about how such a system might function; some observations indicating the existence of such a system; and some hard evidence of physical structures used in support of this system for surveying and mapping.

In-Betweens of Philosophy and Science

A closer look at pareidolia — and what is at stake with our understanding of this phenomenon. A look at the "transcendental empiricism" of Gilles Deleuze: what are we doing when we construct a theory, and transform experience into knowledge? Edmund Husserl's phenomenology, and Jean Paul Sartre's existentialism: Immanuel Kant and phenomenology as Apparition — the conditions under which, that which appears comes to be apparent. "Conceptual pareidolia" as the displacement of empirical evidence by established theory; questioning role that racism might play in this. Distinguishing the clearly seen from the confused and obscured. Distinguishing between philosophy and science; and, disagreements in dating the arrival of the First People in North America. Scientific critiques directed toward philosophy; providing a specific example in rebuttal. "Conceptual pareidolia" re-emerges as "confirmation bias." Philosopher Henri Bergson and scientist Albert Einstein — both Nobel Laureates — disagree on the nature of time.

Something Unusual That Immediately Caught My Passing Eye

Back to the beginning: noticing something unusual, as an anomaly.

Suggestions of a System for Survey and Mapping

The persistence of circular patterns in anametric image writing, as exemplified through samples collected across North America; and the suggestion of an underlying system for surveying and mapping territory. Given that writing is accepted as arising in the Middle East from a mathematically oriented system for accounting, as applied in the context of travel for trade: that writing might also arise from a geometrical system for mapping territory that is regularly traversed should not be at all surprising.

On Connected Ground

Considering a paradigmatic template for a system of survey and mapping: patterned ground, a naturally occurring phenomenon of arctic and alpine landscapes.

Looking At Mountains

Orienting a system of survey and mapping for cross-referencing: the inclusion of mountain motifs in anametric image writing.

A Stone Astrolabe for Determining the Seasonal Availability of Food Sources

Sighting lines and seasonal variances: a stone astrolabe that indicates the seasonal availability of food resources.

A Medicine Wheel for Surveying Coordinates Used In Mapping Territory

A stone circle, visible using Google Earth, as a sighting position for surveying territory. A scientific explanation for this stone circle that discounts any First Nations involvement in its creation. A detailed examination of solar alignments between this stone circle and the visual horizon.

A Question of Motivation

A closer look at the political landscape surrounding this stone circle; and, more compelling solar alignments to consider.

Some Similar Developments in Adjacent Cultures

Other well known proto-scientific achievements, with respect to systems of survey and mapping, from cultures adjacent to the First Nations of North America.


Surveying and mapping concepts in philosophy: finding ideas different than those one habitually encounters. How do we document a form of writing very different than the one we are documenting it within? Looking at the role played by certain basic concepts within our own linguistic experience, and considering how these might differ significantly when encountered through a very different language. Reconsidering how we think about time: is the idea of a past / present / future universal, or is it more immediately a product of the verbal structures inherent in the language we speak? A close analysis of an example of an anametric image writing example.

The Whorf Controversy, Revisited

Revisiting "The Whorf Controversy": Does the language each of us speaks determine the ways we can actually think, or not? Reframing this controversy: as a linguist, should we consider Whorf to be a scientist — or a philosopher? The case for considering Whorf as a philosopher. Distinguishing between philosophic concepts and scientific functions. Returning to The Whorf Controversy yet again, to ask: Is there any context in which allusions regarding the appropriateness of First Nations languages for expressing quantum physics might be applicable? Feynman diagrams; and, what Whorf actually said. Returning to The Whorf Controversy one final time: Michael Foucault and the texture of shifting language usage. The people Benjamin Lee Whorf spoke with are not people his detractors are thinking about — and, considering the heroic nature of Whorf's work. Jacques Derrida and the concept of the philosopheme. Some philosophemes that are characteristic of Western European metaphysics and culture. Contrasting philosophemes from First Nations culture.

Writing and Time

A return to the three aspects of philosophy considered earlier: having already examined the diagrammatic features inherent in a system of survey and mapping; as well as the personalistic aspects implicit with the appearitions of conceptual personae; this time, the intensive features of anametric image writing than singularize temporal ordinates are appraised.

Writing Time In Space

Moving toward the core issues upon which the essential nature of anametric image writing articulate, conceptual relationships holding between the expression of time through metaphors of space within speech — and through writing — are considered. Here, the most "controversial" of Benjamin Lee Whorf's contentions tend to play out — those that pertain to his insights into the ways time is conceptualized in the languages of the First Nations. Whorf's detractors tend to insist that time is the same for everyone everywhere, regardless of the language they speak; but this does not change the fact that different languages express temporal concepts differently. The implications of this reality are very much open to discussion!

On A Scale of Now and Then

Considering the temporal in terms of immanence, as that which varies from itself without being other than itself. What does that mean? Well, each of us is of a different mind from moment to moment — without constantly being a different person. That is the nature of what is characteristically temporal, and it is the essence of anametric image writing. A look at this very basic articulation of differential repetition: considering events depicted as durations, as occurs in anametric image writing — instead of things signified as objects, as happens in European languages.

Conceptualizing Time and Space as Differential

Dan Moonhawk Alford's insights regarding the work of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Introducing insights into the nature of the temporal established by Nobel Laureate Henri Bergson: the very distinct difference between the nature of spacial and temporal phenomena. Non-numerical multiplicities as characteristic of temporality: introducing the anametric.

Definitive proof that anametric image writing CANNOT be the result of random natural processes — it can ONLY be the result of intentional acts undertaken by conscious beings such as ourselves.

The reality of anametric image writing as an event language.

Reading Anametric Image Writing

A detailed, image-by-image examination of the primary face on the first example of anametric image writing I found.

The Three Feathers

Considering the signature motif found on the Three Feather Chief Stone — one that occurs in other iterations of anametric image writing, as found on other stones — as indicative of a distinct conceptual persona.

Fractal Time

Considering the essence of what constitutes The Historical: how can we conceive of time outside of the verbal constructs of European languages, in ways other than a linear progression of past / present / future — which is in itself contingent upon an object-oriented present defined by physical presence in space?

Food and Tools

Considering the primary immanences articulated through the Three Feather Chief motif. Insights from the archaeological record regarding the use of stone tools. Examining the formation of a conceptual persona in the articulation of tool production within a context of the territorial availability of food resources.

The Spear Point and Mountain Goat

Examining the conceptual structures generated by the first position in the Three Feather Chief motif. Reviewing the archaeological record on the use of stone spear points. Beginning to realize that a poetry of event is being conveyed through anametric image writing.

The Obsidian Microblade Core

Further references to the archaeological record: the history of microblade production, and the possibility of further consolidating the Historical timeframe for anametric image writing. An in-depth examination of the relationships forming between diagrammatic features and intensive ordinates — the two aspects of philosophy that directly articulate with the third, that of conceptual personae. Immanence and duration in the formation of conceptual structures within anametric image writing.

The Granite Ax

Articulation and immanence: the formation of meta-narratives through the differential variances of the composition grouping patterns found within image writing. Another instance of differential repetition in the iteration of a image composite contextualized by the Three Feather Chief motif, as found upon two separate examples of anametric image writing — and the real world contextualization of that image composite.

Material Culture: A Material Narrative and A Material History

An introduction to the concept of a material history determined through a material narrative — as grounded in technologies of material production.


Any questions directed toward the nature of writing are invariably and intimately bound to questions concerning human consciousness — in terms of immanence, and in our ability to conceptualize durations. This section examines what I consider to be the probable origin of human self-consciousness, and looks at why post-structural philosophy is particularly well suited for analyzing the graphemic origin of writing. The nature of "The Historical" — historicity — is considered; and three distinct Material Epochs of First Nations culture are examined. In addition, the core relationships holding between the formation of consciousness, reading and writing, and non-subjective transcendental fields are defined. Finally, the analytic tools used for examining the origin of writing are fine-tuned; and as a result, an important distinction is introduced to allow a more robust discernment in describing the nature of the meta-narrative structures which move readers through anametric image writing.

The Question of Consciousness

I didn't need to do this particular section, while documenting the existence and nature of anametric image writing; but I was in a position where I could tackle the issue of consciousness and, more specifically, consciousness-of-self: after all, that is one of the oldest known philosophical problems — and where better to approach this from, than a position within the oldest known form of writing?

So, consider this an "emergent extra" — not necessary to this exposition, but worth doing at the same time. Of course, my approach is one which resolves as entirely consistent with regard to the origin of anametric image writing — and the system of survey and mapping that underlies it. The principle concepts I employ in my exposition of the origin for consciousness-of-self are co-extension and articulation — concepts used throughout my analysis of anametric image writing. In this, I am honoring the insight provided by Henri Bergson: that we are capable of cognizing duration in the world around us because we are immanently aware of duration as an immediate aspect of our own consciousness.

Why Post-Structuralism?

Stopping for a moment to review the philosophic tools I bring into play for this analysis: what they are, and where I made my own personal set. What is it about post-structural philosophy that makes me think I can use its resources to document anametric image writing, when those in anthropology and archaeology have clearly never attempted to do so?

Thought and Language: A Continental Context

My initial encounter with post-structural philosophy.

Post-Structural Meta-Linguistics

Félix Guattari and the application of post-structural principle to the study of linguistic structures. Reworking the linguistic analyses of Hjelmslev. Employing linguistic function instead of defining meaning. Utilizing an processual analysis of functional relationships holding between the linguistic categories of "Matter" and "Substance" instead of associations of signification holding between words and objects. Emerging with a concept of "Substantiation," to be used in place of Signification when analyzing anametric image writing.

Three Material Epochs

Defining a horizon of Historicity for anametric image writing that is grounded in the material substrates used in its production; because, if "the historical" is by definition "that which occurs within the timespan of written records," then there must be a sense of The Historical that is specific to anametric image writing.

The First Material Epoch

The earliest period of image production I have been able to identify, and the material substrates used in the production of tools that characterizes that time.

The Second Material Epoch

The transitional phase in which tool production and the creation of images began to differentiate in a whole range of new directions. This is where writing as such actually starts; and it started a very, very long time ago. As far as how long ago, the question here seems to be: on which side of a point about 30,000 years ago did this happen — and on which side of the Pacific Rim did it occur.

The Third Material Epoch

By far, the most prevalent period for examples of anametric image writing; stretching from well before ~12,000 years ago, up to and including the era of contact with Europeans arriving in North America.

The Abstract Machine of Inscription

We can compose conceptual personae for the people who created examples of anametric image writing, through an analysis of the conceptual structures they created; but we can also glean a great deal of information from the fact of the actual acts that produced anametric image writing: we can define stylistic aspects that allow us to compare different examples in unexpected ways. To this end, the linguistic categories of "Expression" and "Content" that were introduced by Hjelmslev — and recognized as problematic by Guattari — are replaced with ones derived from the actual act of inscription that produces the conceptual abstractions of anametric image writing. In this, the neuro-physical context in which consciousness folded onto itself in articulating as consciousness-of-self is considered; and, the nature of Historicity itself is examined.

The Haptic Space of the Close Optical

A final important distinction is made: one which lets us distinguish between the grammatological aspects of anametric image writing that are responsible for moving us as readers through its meta-narratives, and those aspects most directly responsible for the production of conceptual structures within anametric image writing.

A Final Word (or two)

Future directions I intend to take my research — if I can finally find some funding for my work.


Trace indications anchoring anametric image writing in the world are examined: the endoconsistency of conceptual structures conveyed by a traditional First Nations with what we know of this writing's historical development; and the the exoconsistency holding between an example of anametric image writing, a traditional Chinese "myth" — and the paleontological record of some very distinctive, actually existing species. In conclusion, one very compelling justification for identifying anametric image writing as the origin of writing is examined: the world's oldest written joke.

The Question of Consciousness — Revisited

A return to the question of consciousness-of-self, from an Oriental perspective: can we find experiential evidence to support the hypothesis that consciousness is necessarily based within the articulation of motor reflex activations with sensory perception, as co-extended together?

Substantiating Anametric Image Writing

Looking for traces of anametric image writing in already documented sources.

Endoconsistency: A First Nations Story

Looking at internal narrative consistencies that suggest a direct knowledge of anametric image writing — in a story collected by Franz Boas, sometime between 1886 and 1890.

Legends of the Lukungun: The Wives of the Stars

A traditional First Nations story that makes far more sense when the existence of anametric image writing is factored into its narrative elements.

Exoconsistency: A Chinese "Myth" Reconsidered

Considering external references, discounted as fictional, that appear to be of an actually existing animal when correlated to anametric image writing — and the fossil record.

Dragons in Chinese Culture

Dragons as Pterodactyls: the legend; the images; the fossil record.

The World's Oldest Written Joke

Undeniably exemplary of human self-consciousness, The World's Oldest Written Joke demands we decide: would writing more likely have arisen in the Middle East, from people marking down a count of their sheep, at earliest 10,000 years ago; or from people who were writing down jokes, at least 11,000 years ago — using a system of writing they began inventing perhaps 10,000 years before that?

Cirtificate of participation in the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission of Canada