+ + Sarah + +
The following is an abstract published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS) :
A HOWIESONS POORT TRADITION OF ENGRAVING OSTRICH EGGSHELL CONTAINERS DATED TO 60,000 YEARS AGO AT DIEPKLOOF ROCK SHELTER, SOUTH AFRICA – BY TEXIER, PIERRE-JEAN ET AL
Ongoing debates about the emergence of modern human behavior, however defined, regularly incorporate observations from the later part of the southern African Middle Stone Age and emphasize the early appearance of artifacts thought to reflect symbolic practice. Here we report a large sample of 270 fragments of intentionally marked ostrich eggshell from the Howiesons Poort at Diepkloof Rock Shelter, Western Cape, South Africa. Dating from ≈60,000 years ago, these pieces attest to an engraving tradition that is the earliest reliable evidence of what is a widespread modern practice. These abstract linear depictions were made on functional items (eggshell containers), which were curated and involved in daily hunter-gatherer life. The standardized production of repetitive patterns, including a hatched band motif, suggests a system of symbolic representation in which collective identities and individual expressions are clearly communicated, suggesting social, cultural, and cognitive underpinnings that overlap with those of modern people.
Read more on the PNAS website (Note : the full article is not currently on open access)
+ + +
BBC News also published a story about it :
INSCRIBED OSTRICH SHELL FRAGMENTS FOUND IN SOUTH AFRICA ARE AMONG THE EARLIEST EXAMPLES OF THE USE OF SYMBOLISM BY MODERN HUMANS, SCIENTISTS SAY
The etched shells from Diepkloof Rock Shelter in Western Cape have been dated to about 60,000 years ago. The researchers, who have investigated the material since 1999, argue that the markings are almost certainly a form of messaging – of graphic communication.
“The motif is two parallel lines, which we suppose were circular, but we do not have a complete refit of the eggs,” explained Dr Pierre-Jean Texier from the University of Bordeaux, Talence, France. “The lines are crossed at right angles or oblique angles by hatching. By the repetition of this motif, early humans were trying to communicate something. Perhaps they were trying to express the identity of the individual or the group,” he told BBC News.
“What is extraordinary at Diepkloof is that we have close to 300 pieces of such engravings, which is why we are speaking of a system of symbolic representation,” Dr Texier said.
Read the full article here