September 19, 2018 - 13:50 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Scientists have found the oldest known drawing by Homo sapiens : a 73,000-year old sketch in ochre crayon in a cave near Still Bay in the Western Cape, Business Insider reports.
This is the earliest drawing ever found, and predates those in Europe by about 30,000 years, according to research published on September 12 in Nature.
Since excavation began in Blombos Cave in 1991, the site has yielded a treasure trove of artefacts and knowledge about the behaviour of our earliest human ancestors. It dates as far back as the Middle Stone Age, which was between 70,000 and 100,000 years ago.
Previous discoveries at the Blombos cave heritage site have included a 100,000-year-old ochre paint "workshop" and ancient shell beads, both of which demonstrate behavioural characteristics of modern humans.
The latest discovery is inscribed on a smooth flake of silcrete rock: a number of lines etched in ochre.
After using electron microscopy and RAMAN spectroscopy to determine that the lines had been drawn on the stone, a team at the University of Bordeaux in France tried to recreate the material they were drawn with. Ultimately, they found that the lines were drawn in ochre with a tip less than 3mm thick.
The authors argue that the way that the lines end suggest that the pattern was once part of a much larger drawing, which may have been more complex.
"Before this discovery, Palaeolithic archaeologists were convinced that unambiguous symbols first appeared when Homo sapiens entered Europe, about 40,000 years ago, and later replaced local Neanderthals," said Chris Henshilwood, lead author, research chair at the University of Witwatersrand, and director of the Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour at the University of Bergen in Norway.
The drawing shows that Blombos inhabitants were drawing symbols on rocks before humans entered Europe, a behavioural characteristic mainly associated with modern humans.