A pebble with a sequence of linear incisions could be the oldest engraving in the world. The object, which will be described in the April issue of the Journal of Archeology, dates from about a few 100,000 years and it could be the oldest abstract art exhibit in the world. It was recovered in the caverns of the Klasies River in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
“The relationship of the human remains indicates that the engraved piece was made by Homo sapiens”Co-author Riaan Rifkin of the University of the Witwatersrand Institute for Human Evolution tells Discovery News.
Rifkin and his colleagues Francesco d'Errico and Renata García Moreno, have performed extensive non-invasive analyzes on the object. Methods such as X-rays and microscopic analysis allow researchers to examine every minute detail of the ocher stone, which appears to belong to a larger piece.
Scientists conclude that humans intentionally made subparallel lines in the pebble in the middle of the Stone Age.
“After etching the part with sharp stone tools, a remarkably bright, dark reddish-brown powder is likely produced”Says Rifkin. "The design may therefore be visible shortly after it has been produced.”.
Ocher is a natural mineral rich in clay that consists mainly of hydrated iron oxide, being one of the first pigments used by humans and possibly other hominids for artistic purposes. Some still refer to it as the cave painting.
The Klasies River Object It is about three inches long and contains a series of seven "deep and large lines and about 16 narrower and shallower”Says Rifkin. "The fragment is a piece of ocher stone belonging to a semi-circular piece that probably contained a much more extensive design engraved on its surface.”.
The particular interest right now is whether the design was made with a symbolic intention or not. The use of meaningful symbols and images is believed to have been a significant advance in human evolution. Language, mathematics and a host of other subjects are related to this basic skill, in addition to improving communication. Today, art allows communication and identification of the most diverse cultures.
Both the etched lines and patterns could have been common thousands of years ago. Similar designs are engraved in ocher from the Blombos cave, also in South Africa, and the ostrich egg shell found in the refuge of diepkloff stone, in the Western Cape Province. Some of these and other similar objects could even predate the Klasies River pebble, but studies are still ongoing.
“The use of red ocher for symbolic purposes probably played an important role in mediating the increasingly complex relationships that emerged in the middle of the Stone Age.", Explain Rifkin.
Christopher Henshilwood, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand, did not work on this study but has examined other early engravings. For example, has studied abstract marks and other pieces of ocher dating from approximately 70,000 years ago.
In this case, engraving is considered more geometrically complex with a pattern that looks like the letter "X" and is repeated in connected series.
The possible meaning of these lines it's a mystery, "but they are symbols that I think could have an interpretation for those people and could have meanings that others could understand”Says Henshilwood.
For the moment, Rifkin and his team are studying a 30,000-year-old cave in Africa. So far, they have determined that the abstract images represent a zebra, a rhino, a demihuman, and a therianthropic cat.
Graduated in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was little I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.