SA fossils: Modern culture much older

2012-07-30 22:33
Rock painting

Rock painting

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - Researchers say new South African fossil finds show modern culture emerged about 30 000 years earlier there than previously thought.

Two articles published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences say the items found, including poison-tipped arrows and jewellery, are characteristic of the San hunter-gatherers. Their descendants live today in southern Africa.

Carbon dating of the new findings show the San culture goes back as far as 44 000 years instead the previous estimate of somewhere between 10 000 and 20 000 years.

Researchers also say these items have clear uses and can be traced forward to modern culture.

South African researcher Lucinda Backwell says the findings are the earliest known instances of "modern behaviour as we know it." Backwell says the discovery also reinforces that modern humans originate from southern Africa.

Poisoned-tipped arrows and jewelry made of ostrich egg beads show modern culture may have emerged years earlier in the area than previously thought.

The find, discovered at Border Cave close to South Africa's northeastern border with Swaziland, is a comprehensive package of hunting kits and jewellery made of ostrich egg and marine shell beads.

Backwell, who was part of the team of international researchers that made the find, said the artefacts created as many as 44 000 years ago served the same purposes as they would today.

"They all have a specific reason we understand, that's why we can name them," Backwell said.

Symbolic behaviour

The researchers' articles said the Border Cave people used poisoned arrows to hunt and put spiral engraving on arrowheads to indicate ownership. The latter practice has been preserved in the San culture, they said.

Professor Francesco d'Errico of the French National Research Centre, who led the research team, said that the findings tell of a people who were highly evolved.

"They were fully modern genetically and cognitively," d'Errico said.

Their cognitive development is evident in their symbolic behaviour, the professor said. The ostrich egg beads were not only ornaments, but played a major role in bartering with neighbouring groups, he said. That practice continues today.

The paper claimed that the fossils show that all modern culture came from southern Africa, though the researchers acknowledged it remains difficult to pinpoint where in history that modernity began.

Eric Delson, a palaeoanthropologist at Lehman College of the City University of New York, said that while the testing used by the researchers to determine the age of the fossils was very clear and reliable, the findings didn't support the idea that all modern human cultures are connected to this find.

He said there is evidence that a modern culture already existed in Europe around the time the new find is dated.

"They say, 'Modern human behaviour first found!'" Delson said. "Well, not exactly."

He did, however, applaud the research for finding the origins of one specific group of modern people.

Scientists from Britain, France, Italy, Norway, South Africa and the US all took part in the research, run by the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Read more on:    south africa  |  archaeology  |  anthropology
NEXT ON NEWS24X

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
34 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

 
/News
Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Set yourself some clear goals today to help you bring your idealistic ideas down to earth. With a practical plan and a steady...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.