Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Earliest known 'bling' revealed

26.06.2006
Fresh analysis of beads made from seashells by a team led by a UCL (University College London) researcher reveals that modern humans used jewellery at least 25,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Researchers from the UK, France and Israel report in the journal Science that they re-examined beads, originally excavated from a site in Israel and one in Algeria in the early half of the 20th Century, using elemental and chemical analysis. Results show the beads date from between 100,000 to 135,000 years ago – which is much earlier than a recent significant find of beads excavated in South Africa that date from 75,000 years ago.

Personal ornaments, along with art, are generally considered as archaeological proof of an aptitude for symbolic thinking and the findings have major implications for the debates about the origins of behaviourally modern humans.

Dr Marian Vanhaeren, of the AHRC Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Behaviour, UCL Institute of Archaeology, and lead author of the study, says:

"Symbolically mediated behaviour has emerged as one of the few unchallenged and universally accepted markers of modernity. A key characteristic of all symbols is that their meaning is assigned by arbitrary, socially constructed conventions and it permits the storage and display of information.

"The main challenge for paleoanthropology is establishing when in human evolution this ability developed. Archaeological evidence suggests that Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) from Africa were also behaviourally modern before 40,000 but until now evidence has remained scant.

"Given that the same shell species were unearthed at distinct geographical sites suggests that a symbolic tradition extended across the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean. It supports the hypothesis that a widespread tradition of beadwork existed in North Africa and the countries of Western Asia well before the arrival of AMH in Europe."

Human remains excavated from Ethiopia demonstrate that Homo sapiens in Africa were anatomically modern 160,000 years ago, but debate continues over when and where humans first became behaviourally modern.

In 2004 engraved ochre and Nassarius kraussianus seashell beads bearing human-made perforations and traces of use were discovered at the Blombos Cave, South Africa and were dated to 75,000 years ago. The finding suggests that humans became behaviourally modern much earlier than previously thought but it has been hotly contested because of a lack of corroborating evidence from other sites.

The seashell beads that have been re-examined were originally unearthed at a Middle Palaeolithic site at Es-Skhul, Mount Carmel, Israel and from the type-site of the Aterian industry, of Oued Djebbana, Bir-el-Ater, Algeria. The shells from Skhul are currently held in the Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum (NHM), London, and the specimen from Oued Djebbana in the Department of Prehistory, Musée de l'Homme, Paris.

Remoteness from seashore – up to 200 km in the case of Oued Djebban – and detailed comparison to natural shell assemblages indicates in both cases there was deliberate selection and transportation by humans of Nassarius gibbosulus seashells for symbolic use.

Dr Vanhaeren added: "Personal ornaments have many different – and often multiple – functions. They may be used to beautify the body, function as 'love letters' in courtship, or as amulets that express individual or group identity. The function of the oldest beads in Africa and Eurasia were probably different because in the first case we have only one bead type and in the second a rich variety of types.

"We think that the African evidence may point to the beads being used in gift-giving systems which function to strengthen social and economic relationships. The European evidence suggests the beads were used as markers of ethnic, social and personal identity."

Judith H Moore | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Asian dust providing key nutrients for California's giant sequoias
28.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht Chlamydia: How bacteria take over control
28.03.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Chlamydia: How bacteria take over control

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

28.03.2017 | Medical Engineering

Northern oceans pumped CO2 into the atmosphere

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>