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Author Topic: Cave clue to 'first beachcombers'  (Read 29 times)
Description: Ochre engraved with geometrical patterns more than 70,000 years
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« on: October 21, 2007, 11:20:57 AM »

Small and portable, this red ochre stone is engraved with what must be "tally" marks. It is one of two such stones recently found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa and have been dated as being 77,000 years old, making them the oldest form of recorded counting ever found.
The stone is worn which probably indicated that it wasconstantly handled over a period of time, how long is impossible to tell. It looks as though the stone has been reused at least once before as the lighter marks appear to have been erased rather than worn away naturally.
If the dating is accurate this stone was used 5000 years before the Mount Toba eruption of 71,000 years ago. The evidence from the Toba eruption indicates that the world's population of Modern Manwas reduced to a total of around 10,000 adults.

The waste from shellfish dinners discarded in a South African cave is said to be the earliest evidence of humans living and thriving by the sea.

The material was found by scientists working in a sandstone opening at Pinnacle Point on the Cape.

Blombos Cave

Anatomically Modern Humans of the Middle Paleolithic

Great strides in understanding the development of modern human beings are being taken at the very southern tip of Africa these days. While much of the recent press attention has been on the scholarly debate on whether humans evolved once in Africa (the "Out of Africa" theory), or several times all over the world, a quiet revolution has occurred centered on what it means to be human.

More than forty Nassarius kraussianus perforated shell beads have been recovered from the Blombos Cave (BBC) M1 phase dated at 75 000 years and two from the older M2 phase that probably derive from the phase above. Commonly called the tick shell, it is a scavenging gastropod adapted to estuarine environments. The estuaries closest to BBC are those of the Duiwenhoks and Goukou Rivers, located 20 km west and east of BBC respectively

Blombos Cave and the Creative Explosion

For several decades--probably since the discovery of the Lascaux Caves in France--archaeologists believed that while anatomically modern Homo sapiens evolved somewhere between 100,000-150,000 years ago, humans didn't actually develop modern behaviors and thought processes until around 50,000-40,000 years ago.

This event, known in some scientific circles as the "creative explosion," was announced by what researchers saw as a sudden blossoming of symbolic thought.

What researchers mean by symbolic thought is the ability to identify--and create--representations of things. Thus, the theory went, a species really not much smarter than other hominids of the time suddenly began painting bison and mammoth on cave walls in France. Evidence of the flowering of modern human behavior is held to including fishing, the manufacture of bone tools, the use of decoration, and the production of art.

Modern Behaviors in Africa

Part of the trouble was, none of the major scientists was really doing much research in Africa--there was a lot to be investigated in France, after all; but in retrospect the neglect of Africa is a little weird, since we've known for a very long time that that's where the earliest humans evolved. Then, evidence of an earlier flourishing of the creative mind began to appear, in southern Africa south of the Zambezi River, dated to the Middle Stone Age, 70,000 years ago and more. Similar artifact collection types--known as assemblages in archaeological parlance--called Howiesons Poort and Stillbay have been found at sites such as the Klasies River Caves, Boomplaas, and Die Kelders Cave I in South Africa.

These sites included sophisticated bone tools, backed blades, a careful selection of raw material for stone tools and the use of a punch technique; but most of these were controversial in one respect or another. That was until Blombos Cave.

Mossel Bay

Early human use of marine resources and pigment in South Africa during the Middle Pleistocene

Curtis W. Marean, Miryam Bar-Matthews, Jocelyn Bernatchez, Erich Fisher, Paul Goldberg, Andy I. R. Herries, Zenobia Jacobs, Antonieta Jerardino, Panagiotis Karkanas, Tom Minichillo, Peter J. Nilssen, Erin Thompson, Ian Watts, Hope M. Williams

Nature 449, 905 - 908 (18 Oct 2007) Letters to Editor

The cave at Pinnacle Point is about 50m above current sea level

Curtis W. Marean
Ph.D, University of California, 1990

He is currently directing archaeological excavations, with Dr. Peter Nilssen, at Mossel Bay in South Africa. The sites are mostly large caves in the steep coastal cliffs above the Indian Ocean. These excavations are targeted at refining our understanding of the origins of modern human behavior and placing that event in its environmental context. To that end, he is a leading a team that is seeking to develop a continuous sequence of environmental change from 400,000 to 30,000 years ago. This will have implications for our understanding of modern human origins, but also will inform us on the response of terrestrial ecosystems to potential long-term climate change, and thus be directly relevant to the future of humanity in the light of future climatic shifts.

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