In Europe, amongst the oldest known symbolic ornaments are perforated animal teeth and shell beads, found in Upper Palaeolithic contexts that date to no more than 40,000 years ago. Such finds are apparently associated with both modern human and late Neanderthal sites. Together with cave paintings and engravings they offer the strongest indications that European societies of those times were capable of thinking in an abstract manner, and symbolising their ideas without relying on obvious links between a meaning and a sign.
But, now, a growing body of evidence indicates symbolic material culture consisting of engravings, personal ornaments and systematic use of beads had emerged much earlier in Africa. In a recently published paper in PNAS (Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences of America) archaeologists from Morocco, UK, France and Germany, including researchers (M. Vanhaeren and F. d'Errico) funded by the origin of Man, Language and Languages programme of the European Science Foundation, have been able to show that some of the earliest examples of bead making may date back as far as 82,000 years ago in North Africa.
Monday, June 25, 2007
More on north African Upper Palaeolithic Bead story
Also on EurekAlert and, with a photograph of one of the beads, LiveScience.