Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Memory Code” as Want to Read:
The Memory Code
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Memory Code

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  225 ratings  ·  52 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
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Memory Code, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Memory Code

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  225 ratings  ·  52 reviews

Sort order

“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
Peter Mcloughlin
The author makes a plausible if highly speculative proposition. Namely that many of the artifacts and monuments of prehistory were used to enhance memory of important knowledge in an oral tradition. Drawing from Cicero's Ad Herennium and the memory palace described in it in addition to indigenous peoples use of ritual and song to hold on to traditions and histories of their people and knowledge of plants and animals, the author argues that ancient monuments and artifacts had the same purpose. No ...more
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
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memory
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
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.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Resulta que el palacio de la memoria es mucho más que un truco para recordar discursos. Tras terminar el libro creo que me quedó una idea bien clara de qué realmente significa usar lugares y canciones como técnica recordar, más allá de "imaginar un palacio y llenarlo con cosas". Creo que de a poco iré probando a ver si finalmente resulta armar ese tipo de espacios.

Las teorías sobre cómo las líneas de Naca, los moai y Stonehenge son espacios de memoria es muy fascinante, y la autora explica bien
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a brilliant insight into the past. I love that these 'mysteries' were uncovered through inter-discipline study. Kudos to Dr Kelly for following through on her epiphany to full fruition! In addition, Dr. Kelly took what she was studying and applied it in her own life to find validity in what she was learning. I feel encouraged to do the same. Hmm, but what knowledge do I want to ascribe to my daily walk? The possibilities are endless as Dr. Kelly proved!

As a note from an LDS religious perspe
Debra Lowman
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an anthropological look at the history of memory and memory systems that included both oral tradition and most importantly to the author memory spaces and mnemonics, both physical and virtual, that were used to encode knowledge in a format people could easily recall.

How did people remember where to find plants, or for that matter how to select the ones to eat least likely to kill you? How did they remember what happened a hundred years ago, or in my case, what happened last week?

A l
Tim O'Neill
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was initially wary due to the schlock "Holy Blood Holy Grail"/"Hidden Secrets of X" style title, but after hearing an extended interview with Dr. Kelly It seemed she was onto something. The first half on the "system of loci" mnemonic techniques and how it's used by pre-literate cultures to encode huge amounts of information was fascinating, especially how this is key to understanding Australian Aboriginal songlines, dreamings and art.

The book does lose something when this is applied to other
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Across our planet, ancient humans constructed and erected a variety of stones, statues, circles, buildings, caves, pueblos, and pyramids. Speculation about the purpose of these structures has hypothesized the spiritual, astrological, communal, and funereal. The author of this book suggests that sources of memory are yet another.

Her premise in that Preliterate humans used the shape, orientation, design, bumps, curvature, location, paths, and color of these structures as memory stations. In other
Terry O'Carroll
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kelly's thesis is that monuments like Stonehenge were constructed as memorization aids for oral cultures during the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies to settled farming communities. She asserts that non-literate societies used the method of loci to memorize huge volumes of information: knowledge of animals and plants; laws and treaties; geography; and everything else that a society needed to maintain within its collective memory. In a nomadic culture, these are anchored to actual ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Dance of Time: The Origins of the Calendar: A Miscellany of History and Myth, Religion and Astronomy, Festivals and Feast Days
  • What are the Seven Wonders of the World?: And 100 Other Great Cultural Lists—Fully Explicated
  • Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems
  • Cosmosapiens: Human Evolution from the Origin of the Universe
  • 50 Politics Classics: Freedom Equality Power: Mind-Changing, World-Changing Ideas from Fifty Landmark Books
  • Life after Death: A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion
  • The Lost Art of Finding Our Way
  • The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature
  • A Short History of Christianity
  • The History Of World Literature
  • The Things That Nobody Knows: 501 Mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything
  • The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates
  • The Oxford History Of The Biblical World
  • The Space Book: From the Beginning to the End of Time, 250 Milestones in the History of Space  Astronomy
  • Death and the Afterlife: A Chronological Journey, from Cremation to Quantum Resurrection
  • Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle: Myth and Metaphor in the Discovery of Geological Time
  • A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves
  • Unbound: How Eight Technologies Made Us Human, Transformed Society, and Brought Our World to the Brink
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