Ancient necklaces reveal early mans intelligence

January 5th, 2009 - 2:46 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Jan 5 (ANI): Researchers have determined that necklaces dating back to almost 100,000 years, found in southern Africa and the Middle East, represent intellect among early modern humans that allowed them to migrate out of Africa and determined their evolutionary success.

According to a report in The Times, perforated seashells from Blombos Cave and possible shell beads from Sibudu Cave, both in South Africa, date from 70,000-75,000 years ago.

Also, perforated shells bearing traces of red ochre are known from the Grotte des Pigeons in Morocco at 82,500 years and from Qafzeh in Israel at 90,000 years ago.

The latter were in layers that also had burials of anatomically modern humans of Homo sapiens type, while at Skhul, near Qafzeh, the Mousterian layers usually associated with Neanderthal man yielded two perforated shells.

It has been repeatedly argued that personal ornaments are one of the innovations that emerged in Africa among early modern humans, and that they represent behaviors that allowed them to migrate out of Africa and determined their evolutionary success, according to archaeologist Solange Rigaud and her colleagues.

The use of personal ornaments by Mousterian Neanderthals and earlier hominids is a controversial issue, Rigaud added.

One possibility, they suggest, is the use of naturally perforated small fossil sponges of the species Porosphaera globularis, a calacareous sponge that often occurs in chalky rocks.

Since the mid-19th century, it has been suggested that they were modified or used by humans, partly because collections found together could have been strung as necklaces and were also unlikely to be chance collocations.

Recently, Robert Bednarik has argued that the size, shape and perforation frequency of Porosphaera found in archaeological contexts differ from natural assemblages, and that micro-flaking around the holes was caused by hominid action to enlarge them.

Dr Rigauds team compared some of these early archaeological specimens from the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford and the Natural History Museum in London with later archaeological uses of the sponges in Bronze Age and Roman times, and also with a large sample of natural Porosphaera from the Baltic coast of Germany.

The archaeological samples were larger, and had larger holes, than the control sample at a fairly high level of statistical significance.

There was insufficient stratigraphic dating evidence from the 19th-century excavations, however, to confirm that the sponges had been collected by hominids, rather than accumulated in the same deposits as man-made tools by chance.

Nevertheless, some kind of sorting clearly occurred in the ancient collections to produce such different ranges of size and shape from the natural sample. (ANI)

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