WORLD'S OLDEST BEADS EVEN OLDER THAN ORIGINALLY THOUGHT
A team of archaeologists has uncovered some of the world's earliest shell ornaments in a limestone cave in Eastern Morocco. The researchers have found 47 examples of Nassarius marine shells, most of them perforated and including examples covered in red ochre, at the Grotte des Pigeons at Taforalt. Taforalt is also the largest necropolis of the Late Stone Age period in North Africa presently under excavation.
The fingernail-size shells, already known from 82,000-year-old Aterian deposits in the cave, have now been found in even earlier layers. While the team is still awaiting exact dates for these layers, they believe this discovery makes them
arguably the earliest shell ornaments in prehistory.
The shells are currently at the center of a debate concerning the origins of modern behavior in early humans. Many archaeologists regard the shell bead ornaments as proof that anatomically modern humans had developed a sophisticated symbolic material culture.
The newest evidence shows that the Aterian in Morocco dates back to at least 110,000 years ago. Research team leader, Professor Nick Barton, from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, said: "These new finds are exciting because they show that bead manufacturing probably arose independently in different cultures and confirms a long suspected pattern that humans with modern symbolic behavior were present from a very early stage at both ends of the continent, probably as early as
110,000 years ago."
Also leading the research team Dr Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, from the Institut National des Sciences de l'Archaeologie et du Patrimoine in Morocco, said: "The archaeological and chronological contexts of the Taforalt discoveries suggest a much
longer tradition of bead-making than previously suspected, making them perhaps the earliest such ornaments in the world."
Source: ScienceDaily (7 May 2009)