Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Earliest Beads Unearthed in Moroccan Cave

Shell ornaments recently uncovered in a cave in Morocco are believed to be some of the world’s oldest beads. The fingernail-size Nassarius marine shells are perforated and some are covered in decorative red ochre.

Up until now, Blombos cave in South Africa has been leading the “bead race” with 41 Nassarius shell beads that can confidently be dated to 72,000 years ago. The 47 shells found in Morocco are likely at least 82,000 years old.

Archaeologists widely believe that humans in Europe first started fashioning purely symbolic objects about 40,000 years ago, but in Africa this latest evidence shows that humans were engaged in this activity at least 40,000 years before this.

Research team leader Professor Nick Barton of the University of Oxford, said: “These new finds are exciting because they show that bead manufacturing probably arose independently in different cultures and confirms a long suspected pattern that humans with modern symbolic behavior were present from a very early stage at both ends of the continent, probably as early as 110,000 years ago.”

Click here for the ScienceDaily article.

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