Early on in the Paleolithic era, humans, most probably women, began to externalize memory in order to have more control over their experience, to be able to make plans and know what to expect when. Most likely this was originally crafted around the experience of parturition and birth. The way that they did this is by beginning to make records of the phase of the moon onto stone and bone and match the moon’s cycles with their own bodies.

They began to see a connection between the moon cycles and the cycles of a female body and the experience of conception and birth. As the recording became more detailed, they began to see a connection with the larger cycles of time which, for some humans living away from equatorial zones, matched repeating seasons and weather which brought different plants and animals.

They began to understand these repeating patterns and how they, themselves, were embedded within them along with the animals, trees, forests and ocean.

As they walked their seasonal travel, they began to notice different ecosystems with variations of change and pattern and began to make decisions based on what they had learned by keeping more and more records which at once helped them to remember and created more detailed, externalized memory which began to be stored in the collective.

Paleolithic wolf bone with tally marks

They understood that certain things repeat regularly, and other things do not. Eclipses are more rare, and some things are extraordinary —comet and planet sightings, seasonal appearances of stars. They began to give the irregular things extraordinary meaning.

They began to mark those onto stone and bone as well and tell stories about them. These became their legends and myth. This created collective memory for humans which was spoken as tales and recitations before the advent of writing.


Repeating cycles create time

Though cycles remain consistent, many things do not stay the same.

As these consistent cycles, like moon cycles, repeat, they create the experience of time. As these repeating, consistent, cycles move through time, we experience change. Our bodies age, a tree grows old and dies, or some catastrophe comes and takes it.

Humans began to notice,  for example, after 13 full cycles of 13 moons, a female begins to bleed. Once they understood what the bleeding meant, they celebrated it. They also noticed  that over a period of 10 moons a child is gestated. When a woman reaches 50 times around 13 lunations, she ceases to bleed.

Laussel Goddess, 25,000 BCE. Found in a cave in Dordogne France. Holding a ram or bison horn etched with 13 notations.

They noticed that though the lunar cycles remain the same, Time changes us. These consistent cycles progress through time. And some of us leave.

Therefore, if one begins to count the number of repetitions of its repeating cycles, the moon is also a calendar in the sky.

Shared memories create shared reality

By repeating memories as stories, humans created a shared system of reality based on specific beliefs. In the early phases humans lived in small bands and so the experiences these memories were based on were also shared. These changed and developed, evolved, over time becoming more and more complex and variant with more and more humans and their evolution through time.

Read my previous post on the Greek Goddess Mnemosyne, the muses and memory: Greek Goddess Mnemosyne and Her Daughter Muses: Remnants of Ancient Moon Goddesses

There began to be many histories and stories all across the planet, many differing from one another in context and meaning.

But it all began with noticing and recording cycles of the moon and the development of what we now call math. Memory is still related to math though we rarely think of it that way unless one is a programmer. Common folk know it as repetition and stories that repeat and are retold. Why do we do that? To try to make sense of our experiences and to keep the past alive.

Memory is still an essential component of lifeforms

On a basic level memory helps us get through the day and make our way through time. Memory orients us in space and time. It helps us take advantage of our environment and access resources that we need. This is true for most living beings.

Memory is a function we cannot live without and when we do, like patients with Alzheimers, we keep living the same day over again. We cannot draw on the past to move through the present. We spin in one location. Our relationships falter, we lose access to shared memories that give our relationships meaning.

Memories help us remember what has come before as well as project into the future.

Follow along as I research and write part 2 of The Amazon Pattern.


Memory is essential to all life forms, not just human. Birds remember where to migrate to, dogs never forget where they buried a bone, a cat always come back.

Trees access memory through the mycelial web and their roots. Bacteria and cells have memory.

The earth is “storied” with layer upon layer of memory throughout all its lifeforms captured through all time.

© Theresa C. Dintino 2023

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