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The Memory Code

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  388 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Lynne Kelly has discovered that a powerful memory technique used by the ancients can unlock the secrets of the Neolithic stone circles of Britain and Europe, the ancient Pueblo buildings in New Mexico and other prehistoric stone monuments across the world. We can still use the memory code today to train our own memories.

In the past, the elders had encyclopaedic memories. T
Paperback, 318 pages
Published July 1st 2016 by Allen & Unwin
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“Hunter-gatherer people may be less complex in terms of their hierarchies, cities and politics; it should never be assumed that they are less complex intellectually. . .

The Nobel Prize in Medicine for 2014 was awarded for . . . ‘their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.’. . .

Today we are just as capable of remembering vast stores of information as the elders of prehistory – we just need to bring to life our own memory spaces.”

I don’t think I can overstate t
Lyn Elliott
Lynne Kelly wrote this fascinating book for general readers, and I was pleased and relieved to find its research base is solid and can be pursued in the book published from her PhD thesis Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture.

Kelly started out studying the links between Australian Aboriginal elders’ knowledge of animal behaviour and indigenous stories when her thesis supervisor suggested she read Ong on Orality and Literacy: The Technolog
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History, archaeology, Stonehenge, neolithic, parents, teachers, art & Indigenous culture fans

Sunday 3 July 2016 Radio National interview

Using a memory palace of sorts to explain pre-literary cultures using rituals and stone structures or images as universities and learning spaces. If you wonder about neolithic societies and Stonehenge this is a must read. Or want to improve your memory and recall 1000 times.

Naomi wro
I can't tell you how interesting and refreshing this interview was ( - it was like a bolt out of the blue and I immediately downloaded Lynne's book ' The Memory Code' from audible - beautifully read by Louise Silverson and listened to it almost all the way through. I had heard of the oral histories of the indigenous cultures of New Zealand and Australia but had never conceived any notion of how they achieved their incredible feats of memory. Lynne beautif ...more
The author is an academic with an impressive knowledge of the natural world and the history of mankind. In undertaking her research the author has explored and taught herself various techniques used by ancient cultures to store in their memory their knowledge of the their flora, fauna and legends. In this book she has provided the argument that many of the monuments of prehistory were used as memory aids to help the cultures to pass down knowledge through oral means only.
Her arguments are believ
Laura (Book Scrounger)
I found this book very interesting, though heavy on anthropology and architecture. It is clearly well researched and there are a lot of examples and details of cultures around the world and how they used their architecture and portable devices as "memory spaces," in which they "encoded" knowledge in ways that it could be more easily recalled, essentially turning their architecture into visual mnemonics.

The part I personally found the most interesting was the first third or so of the book, which
Kobe Bryant
well I’m convinced
Isabel Losada
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is not the kind of book that I usually read - I usually read narrative non fiction and this is pure non-fiction. I chose to read The Memory Code because, years ago, I met the author very briefly and I just liked her so much that I wanted to know what she had been doing. And my goodness I'm delighted that I was so curious. It is wonderful to read a book that totally re-conceptualises your understanding of human history. As a barely educated person I had believed that pre-literate people were ...more
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memory, non-fiction
In this book Lynne Kelly describes how non-literal cultures preserved knowledge a couple of thousand years ago. The most efficient technique is based on the system of loci, which is also known as memory palace or memory journey. By linking facts to geographical places and real objects it becomes possible to recall vast amount of knowledge word by word. Not easy of course, the training could easily take decades, but it's also no magic and with dances, songs and myths it was made even more memorab ...more
Semper Liber
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the first book i have read on archaeology and ancient cultures and i found it fascinating. Lynne did a great job of explaining her theory in easy language and in a interesting way.
She takes you through her own personal journey of connecting the dots to develop what seems like a sound theory (for me to judge would be unreliable). This also makes the book much easier to read and understand as she experiments with memory techniques giving wonderful accounts which you can then see apply to h
David Leo
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it
As a Polynesian and a Christian I found the concepts of cultural and religious practices as codes of practical knowledge incredibly insightful. However ironically I was sceptical at how much of what she researched can be attributed to memory coding. Is it possible that aesthetics may have been what done cultures enjoyed. In saying that, I am grateful for Lynnes efforts of research and ability to communicate her findings in these limited pages. I have been encouraged to exercise a system of memor ...more
Lee Kofman
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been living in Australia for almost 20 years now and read quite a lot about Aboriginal culture and history, but this book has given me a particular in-depth insight into the former. Kelly writes with clairity and precision, and remarkable respect, about some of the world's most ancient cultures. Her descriptions of how she implemented old ways of remembering in her own life, and how much this experiment enhanced her present were also exciting. This is an original, deep and at the same time ...more
Ryan Matthews
I read this book primarily because of its discussion about the use of memory techniques. I enjoyed these parts of the book, but it had much more anthropology than I had expected. It's not that it isn't well researched and written, but it just wasn't easy to maintain interest in much of the discussion. It would be great if a second book focusing only on the memory techniques were available for those with less interest in the anthropological aspects of the book.
Daniel Watkins
Aug 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Great book, answers the question: What did nerds do before there were books, or even writing?
Andrea Barton
I particularly enjoyed reading how the author experienced the ancient memory techniques in her own life.
Jim Puskas
This is the most astonishing book I've read in many years. The breadth and complexity of memory feats attributed to non-literate peoples from neolithic to the present day as revealed by Dr. Kelly is truly breathtaking. Even if her conclusions should someday be shown to have been in error (which seems unlikely) she is to be applauded for poking gigantic holes in scholarly arrogance that had persisted in imposing preconceived interpretations on the artifacts of ancient cultures, based on prevailin ...more
John Crippen
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always been fascinated by people who can memorize astounding numbers of things. Dr. Kelly's enjoyable book provides a rational explanation of how preliterate civilizations used physical items (from knotted strings to giant statues) to help them memorize vast amounts of important information.
Ann Leach
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved, loved, loved this book!!
It has me questioning all the ways we learn and teach as well as the required subjects we teach our kids.
Sandy Schmidt
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredibly comprehensive look at ancient ruins (Stonehenge, Easter Islands, etc) and how they could be used to keep memories of a culture alive. In the past, non-literate (preliterate) societies had to memorize and pass down their tribal histories as well as all the plants, insects, animals, landscape, star positions, multiple dialects of cultures they may come across, everything that would be essential to survival. Their memories held encyclopedic amounts of information. For those of ...more
Felix Long
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dr Kelly’s book unlocked a 15 year old puzzle for me. When on holiday on the west coast of Scotland, I visited a Neolithic site recently uncovered by forestry workers. The site was a smooth exposed cliff face with a series of cup and ring carvings. The centre of each carving was a deep depression, probably created by grinding a harder stone into the cliff face like a pestle into a mortar. Around this cup were carved several rings. A line was carved from the cup out through the rings. Each cup ha ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love getting new perspectives on the world. This book did just that.
Helen Smith
Sep 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Lynne Kelly's claim is that many of the ancient monuments across the world were created as memory spaces encoding a wide and rich collection of knowledge. These memory spaces were needed by non-literate cultures to ensure that vital knowledge was passed on and not lost, particularly during the transition from hunter-gatherers to settled farming communities. Monuments used this way required public performance spaces for the uninitiated and ever more restricted spaces for higher grades of initiati ...more
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book through "Good Reads Giveaway".

The information in this book is impressive and sincere. The evidence about primitive archeological sites, being "memory aids", needs to be accepted by the scientific community. The author may be on the right track, but the average reader can not be the judge of the validity of this information.

Nonetheless, the book reacquaints us with fascinating sites around the world. It also explains memory techniques valuable to students, especially the val
Veronica Strachan
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'd never heard of memory spaces but Lynne Kelly has set me straight. The Memory Code is chock full of her research on non-literate cultures and their ability to memorise the vast amounts of practical information they needed to survive. Initially, I was attracted to Kelly's work on using traditional Aboriginal Australian songlines. But the book takes us across continents and cultures into many other memory techniques used by indigenous people around the world.
Kelly suggests we can use this ancie
Renna Shesso
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: archeology
In terms of human memory and how it functions - and how we can help it along - this is the most innovative and important thing I've read. Did the unique ceremonial sites built by our earliest ancestors also function as memory aids? Kelly believes so, and she makes a very good and well-supported case for her theory, her belief. The number of worldwide sites she's included is truly impressive and beautifully diverse, AND she extrapolates into how we can use this manner of memory-logging for oursel ...more
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An inspirational read which provides a great deal of insight into the practicalities of living in a preliterate society, as well as giving clear instructions on how to memorise and recall huge amounts of practical information. I loved it.
The title does a disservice to the contents of this fascinating read. Investigations of multiple cultures across continents and the timeline of humanity (neolithic to present) how knowledge is kept in non-literate communities.
Angelique Simonsen
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
i loved this book and its whole concept! makes a lot of sense and even mentioned lil ol' nz
Chris Esposo
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The thesis for this book is fascinating and provides a unique narrative to both anthropology and human memory. Kelly believes that non-literate cultures in human pre-history used buildings, statues, and ritual as a medium to increase human memory. Essentially, these cultures leveraged the "method of loci" technique currently utilized by memory champions, and popularized in the show "Sherlock", it's also often referred to as the "memory palace" technique. In brief, humans can remember things fact ...more
Dilly Dalley
The thesis that Lynne Kelly puts forward is that in pre-literate times, people and societies needed to use memory techniques to retain and pass on the vast encyclopaedic information that they amassed to survive in their environment. They needed to learn all the names, uses, risks, and seasonal availability of all their food stuffs. They also needed to map their landscape in their mind so that they could remember the routes needed to travel to trade, hunt, gather and socialise. Ancient peoples we ...more
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I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and now live in rural Castlemaine. I started writing as a child and am the author of ten books for schools written during my teaching career, and a novel, Avenging Janie. I then started writing popular science, publishing three books, The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal, Crocodile: evolution's greatest survivor and Spiders: learning to love them. I did a PhD a ...more

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