WASHINGTON - A
collar made of shell beads estimated to be 75,000 years old
and found in a cave in South Africa is believed to be the
oldest known jewellery, appearing 30,000 years before what
had previously been considered the first signs of
civilisation, researchers said.
Archaeologists discovered 41 beads the size of peas with
holes bored in them in the Blombos Cave on the Indian Ocean
coast, according to an article in the April 16 edition of
the journal Science.
The discovery was made in a layer of sediment dating from
the middle of the Stone Age, researchers said.
The beads were made from the shells of a mollusk native to
nearby waters, and contained traces of red ochre, indicating
they were coloured with pigment.
The discovered reinforces the theory that civilisation
developed earlier than first believed, said Christopher
Henshilwood, program director of the Blombos Cave Project
and professor at the Centre for Development Studies of the
University of Bergen in Noway.
"The Blombos Cave beads present absolute evidence for
perhaps the earliest storage of information outside the
human brain. Once symbolically mediated behaviour was
adopted by our ancestors it meant communication strategies
rapidly shifted, leading to the transmission of individual
and widely shared cultural values - trains that typify our
own behaviour," Henshilwood said.
"If the dates hold up we now seem to be seeing a trail of
representational objects that is increasingly older as we
move back into Africa," Randall White of New York University
said in another article on the discovery.