South African cave hid an ancient drawing that shows even early humans could produce deliberate designs using different techniques.
The drawing looks a little like a hashtag, and experts concluded after their analysis that it is 73,000 years old, which makes the sketch in the cave the oldest drawing ever found.
There have been found older abstract engravings, but the one discovered in the Blombos Cave, at almost 300 km east of Cape Town, appears to have been produced with different techniques, and also appeared on various surfaces.
In a report published by the researchers on 12 September in the journal Nature, they concluded that the drawing is at least 30,000 years older than any old known drawing.
According to Christopher Henshilwood (University of Bergen, Norway), the design was created with a sharp flake of a pigment called ochre, which was usually the most commonly used pigment in the ancient times.
The drawing represents six red lines which are intersected by other three lines that appear to be slightly curved. It was drawn on a small flake of mineral crust which measures almost 4 centimeters in length and 1.5 centimeters in height. The drawing appears to have been larger because the lines reach the edge and are abruptly cut, explained the researchers.
Rich and Complex Human Behavior
Henshilwood stated in an email to the AP that the drawing “almost certainly had some meaning to the maker, and probably formed a part of the common symbolic system understood by other people in this group.”
The newly discovered sketch was not just random scratching, explain the scientists. They have seen similar patterns in different artifacts in that cave, and the ancient “hashtag” was also used in rock art and paintings over the last 100,000 years.
It appears that early humans used to behave “essentially like us” before leaving Africa an spreading to Europe and Asia, concluded a researcher who wasn’t involved in the study – Silvia Bello (Natural History Museum, London):
“It further shows how rich and complex human behavior already was 73,000 years ago.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.