Early humans dressed for dinner

Jewellery appears in different places at similar times. <br>© Corbis <br>

Sophisticated jewellery appeared with social events.

Our early ancestors glammed-up for a get-together. Humans worldwide began wearing jewellery at the same time as groups started meeting up, say US researchers. The finding counters the idea that ’modern’ behaviour swept the globe when modern humans migrated out of Africa.

Mary Stiner and her colleagues unearthed ancient necklaces at three sites in Asia, Africa and Europe. Residents of Kenya around 40,000 years ago wore beads and pendants made from ostrich eggshell; those in Turkey and Lebanon preferred seashell chic1.

Such ornaments are seen as a sign of sophisticated behaviour. “We think it typifies modern humans,” says Stiner, of the University of Arizona in Tucson. Like today’s wedding rings and medallions, jewellery says a lot about availability, wealth and religion. “These trinkets really do matter,” she says.

Adornments appeared when growing populations made groups more likely to encounter each other, she told the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

Suffering artists

Animal remains around the Mediterranean suggest that human diet changed 40,000-50,000 years ago. People switched from easy-to-catch shellfish and tortoises to fast-moving birds and rabbits, the team also found.

Rising population density probably made food scarce. The expansion of glaciers, forcing people south, could have worsened the crush.

These findings suggest that modern human behaviour appeared simultaneously on different continents. This counters the theory that sophisticated behaviour emerged when anatomically modern humans spread out of Africa around 40,000-50,000 years ago, replacing culturally primitive Neanderthals.

“There are many signs of modernity before then,” agrees archaeologist Lawrence Straus of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Cultured behaviour was an adaptation to changing conditions, he argues. Other archaeological evidence – such as sophisticated tools and art -appear in the fossil record before anatomically modern humans.

References

  1. Kuhn, S.L. et al. Ornaments of the earliest upper Paleolithic: New insights from the Levant. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98, 7641 – 7646, (2001).

Media Contact

HELEN PEARSON © Nature News Service

All latest news from the category: Life Sciences and Chemistry

Articles and reports from the Life Sciences and chemistry area deal with applied and basic research into modern biology, chemistry and human medicine.

Valuable information can be found on a range of life sciences fields including bacteriology, biochemistry, bionics, bioinformatics, biophysics, biotechnology, genetics, geobotany, human biology, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biology, cellular biology, zoology, bioinorganic chemistry, microchemistry and environmental chemistry.

Back to home

Comments (0)

Write a comment

Newest articles

A world-first antibody-drug delivery system

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: a man-made crystal that can be attached to antibodies and then supercharge them with potent drugs or imaging agents that can seek…

Revealed: How SARS-CoV-2 evades our immune system

Scientists at Hokkaido University and Texas A&M University have identified a key mechanism used by the SARS-CoV-2 virus to evade host immune systems. Researchers in Japan and the United States…

New approach developed to predict response of immunotherapies in lung cancer

New methodology at the University Hospital of Tübingen harnesses the function of platelets. At Tübingen University Hospital, a preclinical study led by Dr. Clemens Hinterleitner and Prof. Dr. Lars Zender,…

Partners & Sponsors