The tiny disk is embedded in nickel and hangs on a chain. The jewel is meant to be useful and attractive, the foundation says. It’s “a durable archive of human languages, as well as an aesthetic object that suggests a journey of the imagination across culture and history,” according to its makers. Long Now hopes the necklace will evoke “the great diversity of human experience as well as the incredible variety of symbolic systems we have constructed to understand and communicate that experience.”

That’s a lot to ask of a necklace. But the pearls of this gem are humanity’s wisdom and knowledge in many languages, theoretically guarded against the ravages of time and the inevitable obsolescence of any technology.

The disk and necklace are in some senses symbolic, physical artifacts representative of a more comprehensive digital project that is continuously updated. But the cave paintings of Lascaux show just how important symbols can be, and that history is discovered accidentally, sometimes in the most unlikely places.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.