The Memory Code by Lynne Kelly - Book and Tour

Has anyone here read Lynne Kelly’s new book, The Memory Code yet? I think that it’s available in Australia, the US, and the UK at the moment.

It’s one of the most thought provoking books I’ve ever read. I highly recommend it.

Here are some of the topics that the book covers:

  • It takes the history of memory techniques back many thousands of years before the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
  • It describes how oral cultures use memory systems to store encyclopedias of knowledge in their minds. The mnemonic devices and knowledge systems have roles in their economies and social hierarchies.
  • It provides examples of sophisticated mnemonic devices from many cultures, including Australian Aborigines, Ojibwe, Sioux, Luba, and many others.
  • It shows how oral cultures can be misunderstood by ethnographers due to a lack of understanding about their memory systems.
  • It presents fascinating new ideas about how mnemonics relate to monuments like Stonehenge, the Nazca Lines, and Easter Island.

The book tour is headed to New York City, Washington DC, Nottingham, and London. Click here for dates. (NYC is tomorrow, so don’t wait.)

There is also an exciting project happening in Australia called The Orality Centre.

I’m really interested in trying some of the techniques that are mentioned in the book. If you’ve read the book, leave a comment below, and let’s discuss it! :slight_smile:

I read the book a couple of months back and had high hopes for it at the outset, but my hopes faded the further I got in, and it ended leaving me feeling cheated.

Now I’m quite prepared to accept that it’s probably just me, that I’m too slow or stupid to do the necessary extrapolation.

But I didn’t find her examples to be real examples at all. Just one practical example explained in depth would have made all the difference.

And going even further, one practical example explained in depth from each of the epochs or societies she discusses would have made it an outstanding resource.

My final analysis: quite interesting, some novel ideas, but left me needing more.

Hi Soporose,

Thank you for your comments. I am a bit confused about what you mean by a single example. There is an entire chapter which goes through the example of a memory journey for history. Or do you mean from the cultures? Didn’t you find the Puebloan corn example full enough? I struggled with how much detail to include, so your comments are very valuable to me as a writer.

You would get more detail from the Cambridge University Press academic version, “Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies”. The references from that, and the 800 item bibliography cited in it would give you a lot more. That bibliography is freely available on my website. It was essential that I show that these memory methods are universal - that means a lot of cultures needed to be introduced.

As for the epochs, I cannot give specific examples from the past of non-literate cultures without a time machine. However, it can be rationally argued what sort of knowledge would have been stored. I discuss a lot of epochs and so many cultures that specific examples desribed for each would have made the book painfully repetitive. I’d love to do it, though, that’s what I live most about the research.

I may be misunderstanding your comments. I would have loved to do a book twice the length, but that wasn’t what was commissioned. As yours is the first negative review I have received from a huge amount of feedback, I appreciate your comments and will consider them seriously.

Thank you,

Lynne

I was slightly skeptical at first but I’m now telling everyone what a fantastic book that is.

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My mother was always a fan for ancient civilizations,
And was also interrelated in memory techniques, but never had a good enough example to understand how to use a memory Palace.
I’m buying this book for her as a gift,
I hope the entanglement between ancient cultures and mnemonics will finally get her hooked!

Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back here Lynne, I’ve just got more going on in my life at the moment than I can really handle, so I completely forgot about this discussion.

First, please don’t think that I’m being critical of your book overall. A great deal of what you discussed was completely foreign to me and a great eye-opener. I’d never heard of things like lukasa boards and I found the concept absolutely fascinating.

Let me try to clarify what I meant by wanting a “practical example explained in depth”. After reading your book and even doing further research, I still have no idea how to create and use a lukasa. I can see the general idea behind it, but practical creation and use escapes me. And because it seems to be such a brilliantly useful concept, that inability frustrates me no end.

As I said, it’s probably me. Maybe I should be able to figure this out for myself. But sadly so far I have completely failed at that.

I saw one YouTube video where the narrator reported an instance of someone asking a native initiate of the device to decode a small section of one and “it was absolutely fascinating” he said. But nowhere have I been able to find anyone instructing on the creation and/or use of a lukasa.

  • Bill

Hi Bill,

Now I must apologise. I had lost track of a lot of conversations because I had forgotten where to find them. I feel like an idiot - I just didn’t scroll down on my personal page.

I agree with your criticism. When I wrote the book, I wasn’t imagining people trying to use the techniques. For me the book was about explaining the archaeology and indigenous intellectual achievements. That was naive! The majority of emails I get are about applying the memory methods in contemporary life. So my publisher has commissioned a whole book on exactly that topic. There will be practical examples explained in depth throughout.

I am astounded by the reaction to the lukasa memory board. I had no idea that it would appeal so much to so many people. I am delighted that it does and will be writing about the one I generated just by sticking shells and beads on the wood fairly randomly and then encoding wiht the 412 birds of my state. But I will also be writing about my new one based very closely on the real lukasa I examined at the Brooklyn Museum. There are none in Australia. By designing it specifically for the information to be encoded, encoding is way faster and more effective. They are incredible devices.

We have been running lukasa workshops here in rural Victoria, but that is not convenient for 99.9999% of the world’s population!

Thank you for your comments!

Lynne

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I’ve told many friends and family about the concept of the book, and people do seem to find it interesting. I believe my 85 year old parent currently have my copy of the book.

I wonder how a Lukasa could be designed for Medical Students now…

Hi jmsmall,

Thank you for your comment. I think a lukasa could be designed for any information which could be structured. Given the huge amount of information in med studies, it may be that a separate memory board could be designed for each of the systems. I know one reader in Sweden has constructed a set of 15 memory boards for a huge topic which was best done that way. I have yet to find out more. I intend trying that myself when I get through all the current experiments. Oh, and training for my first memory competitions. :slight_smile:

I’d be really interested if you have any ideas on using a lukasa for medical students.

Lynne

Hi Lynne,

Re. workshops.
Have you considered running a online Lukasa workshop? You could have a list of materials to be purchased in advance. Depending on the number of attendees, using http://zoom.us can manage a large video conference and record it.

I bet a lot of us would sign up!

Best,
JM

Hello Dr. Kelly,

I bring to your attention the Constellations described in the Bible and mirrored in ancient cultures all over the world.

I believe that this is the most ancient of ALL memory systems.

Please consider the work of Dame (I believe) Francis Rolleston called “Mazzaroth.”

Thanks kindly,
Stefos
P.S. I believe your research has just gotten on par with Frances Yates but in the opposite direction of the time line and a lot remains to be researched, written and discussed.
Continue with it miss, ma’am…plumb the depths…

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Hi JM,

Those I work with here running lukasa workshops have considered online sessions, but it hasn’t happened yet. Because of the interest, that will be covered thoroughly in my new book. At the moment, the book is my focus. After that is published, I may consider online workshops, but at the moment there is just no more time in the day.

Thank you for your enthusiasm for the lukasa and my work. I am daily astounded on how effective these devices are.

Lynne

Hi Stefos,

Images created using the skyscape and the associated stories are most certainly mirrored universally. Thank you for pointing me to the work of Francis Rolleston.

I am flattered to be considered on par with Frances Yates. I have gone in the opposite direction in time, although in my new book I will be covering mnemonic techniques as they changes with the introduction of literacy and into contemporary times. So I will join Yates in time. But I will still focus on Indigenous cultures, some of which are contemporary.

All good fun!

Lynne

Hi Dr. Kelly,

Yes…You’ll be like Dame Yates once you publish the magnitude of works she did ma’am…I’m sure of this.

I will be purchasing your book by the way.

There are other sources behind the Mazzaroth incidentally…Message me for more goodies!

Please call me Lynne. Thank you for the links. I have more than enough reading material for the moment, but thank you for the offer. One day, I shall have more time! :slight_smile:

Lynne

Hi Lynne,

Thank you for your kindness.

Yes…continue to publish works that plumb the depths of the cultures of a geographical area and then YOUR magnum opus which ties them all…Consider Frazer’s Golden Bough.

Yes…they are tied together and it is more than a cerebro-spinal issue.

The origins of humanity are indeed spiritual not materialistic.

It will have to be left there for now
Stefos