Thursday, December 6, 2012

The First Modern Humans Arose in South Africa, Say Researchers

The synthesis of years of research at prehistoric sites in southern Africa, as represented by research recently published in the Journal of World Prehistory, has led a number of scientists to suggest that South Africa was the primary center for the early development of modern human behavior. This would mean cognitive behavior as manifested in technology much like the material culture of modern hunter-gatherer groups throughout the world today. 

The new research paper by renowned Wits University archaeologist, Prof. Christopher Henshilwood, is the first detailed summary of Middle Stone Age (280,000 - 50,000 years ago) technologies and cultural remains discovered at a number of sites in southern Africa, artifacts that fall within two established overall  "techno-tradition" periods:  Still Bay  (dated to c. 75,000 – 70,000 years ago) and Howiesons Poort (c. 65,000 – 60,000 years ago). 

Henshilwood maintains that these periods were significant markers in the development of Homo sapiens behavior in southern Africa. They featured a number of innovations including, for example, the first abstract art (engraved ochre* and engraved ostrich eggshell); the first jewellery (shell beads); the first bone tools; the earliest use of the pressure flaking technique, used in combination with heating to make stone spear points; and the first probable use of stone tipped arrows launched by bow. (See examples pictured below).

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