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Oldest Well-Dated Jewelry
Shell beads from Blombos Cave in South Africa may be the oldest, well-dated examples of jewelry, according to a new study that supports an early emergence of modern humanity in the 16 April 2004 issue of the journal Science.
Approximately 75,000 years ago, people living near the shores of the southern tip of Africa bore holes into tick shells, strung them together and wore them as jewelry, according to Christopher Henshilwood and an international team of scientists. The pea-sized shells are from the Middle Stone Age levels in the cave that yielded abstract engravings on ochre from the same time period.
The common holes in the shells and the patterns of wear define the shells as beads, the authors write. The archaeologists discovered the beads in clusters of similar size, shade and wear-use pattern. Each cluster may represent beads coming from the same jewelry item.
Beadwork and art from the Middle Stone Age at Blombos Cave suggests the existence of a language capable of sharing and transmitting the symbolic meanings of these objects, according to the authors.
16 April 2004