Monday, June 18, 2007

Beads from 80,000 Years Ago

I love this. A dozen beads, pierced for stringing and dyed with red ocher, were found in a Morrocan cave. They date to 80,000 years ago.

(picture from MSNBC's website and credited to Ian Cartwright, LiveScience)

And they aren't even the oldest ever found. A couple of shell beads in Shkul, Israel were unearthed in the 1930s and are believed to be 100,000 years old. One in Algeria is aged 90,000 years, and some in South Africa are 75,000 years old. They weren't found near a beach; they were carried away deliberately and worked.

80,000 years, or 100,000. What does that compare to? The caves painted with horses and hunt scenes in Lascaux, France, date to 15,000 BCE. The agricultural revolution didn't kick off till 8,000 or 9,000 BCE. The earliest evidence of weaving--impressions of cloth pressed into wet clay, or fossilized cloth wrapped around an antler--date to 7000 BCE. (That doesn't mean cloth didn't exist earlier; we just haven't found any evidence)

So what were people doing 80,000 years ago?

Dressing up, obviously.

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