Researchers have found perforated shells that appear to be beads dating back 76,000 years ago, causing the development of language and symbolic communication to be older than previously thought by 30,000 years.
The 41 tick shells, punctured with holes of roughly one centimetre across in the same place, were found at Blombos Cave site, 300 km east of Cape Town, South Africa, by Christopher Henshilwood, a professor at the Centre for Development Studies of the University of Bergen in Norway, and his team. Their results are published in this Friday’s edition of the journal Science.
Until now, the oldest beads found in Africa were about 45,000-years-old. It was at this time modern human behaviour—a key aspect being symbolic communication—was believed to have arisen, according to the then-dominant theory. However, the new shell find supports modern human behaviour developing earlier, more gradually throughout the Middle Stone Age.
Jens Degett | ESF
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