World news – The Kalahari discovery changes our understanding of early humans, a new paper in Nature reports


These calcite crystals were brought into a rock shelter on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa 105,000 years ago by the early Homo sapiens. Why? // Photo: Jayne Wilkins

Archaeological evidence from the Ga-Mohana Hill North Rock Shelter on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa challenges the idea that the origins of our species are related to coastal environments, a new paper in Nature Reports .

One of the most important finds on the site are 22 calcite crystals (smooth, white, rectangular structures).

« There is no geological reason for these crystals to be present, and yet there are 22 of them », says Benjamin Collins, a UM researcher who was involved in the most recent study. // Image: Jayne Wilkins

« There’s no geological reason these crystals are there, and yet there are 22 of them, » says Benjamin Collins, a researcher at the University of Manitoba’s Department of Anthropology who is part of the international team is that the latest results in the work “Innovative Homo sapiens behavior 105,000 years ago in a wetter Kalahari. « 

 » So that’s a pretty good indicator that ancient humans brought these crystals to the construction site 105,000 years ago, « says Collins. “The big question is why did people bring calcite crystals here. They have no technological function and would not contribute to survival, but they had a certain meaning, so this symbolism suggests culture. It’s an indicator of complex thinking. It really changes how we see the history of human evolution. “

The crystals of Ga-Mohana could have been associated with spiritual beliefs, which is even more remarkable when you consider that the shelter of the Ga-Mohana Hill North Rock is now also used for ritual activities. </ "One of the big questions in human evolutionary research is understanding when people became people – when did we start using culture as an adaptive tool," says Collins. "A big part of trying to understand human evolution is tracking these changes in culture over time."

The discoveries made by this research team, led by Jayne Wilkins of the Australian Research Center for Human Evolution Griffith University and a graduate student from the University of Toronto are changing our perception of early Homo sapiens: our species emerged in Africa, and evidence of this has – so far – been largely discovered in coastal locations in South Africa, supporting the idea that our origins were with coastal environments related. This new discovery from inside the rock shelter is changing the storyline of human history.

« In coastal locations, the earliest evidence of this type of behavior comes around the same time, 105,000 years ago, » says Wilkins. « This suggests that the early humans in the Kalahari were no less innovative than those on the coast. »

Collins examined animal bones at the point that showed evidence that tools were used to cut them and smashed to extract pith, and ostrich eggshells, a rare find in such an ancient location. Ostrich eggshells change color when exposed to heat: 200-250 ° C heat sources color them yellow, and 300 ° C or more color them red. The clams he examined were red and answers as to why exactly they are temptingly inaccessible.

« We’re not sure how the ostrich eggshells were used, possibly they could have been used as containers, but we are ourselves not sure, « he says. “Either way, it’s something someone used 105,000 years ago and there’s this tangible link to the past. It’s just very, very cool and it’s a great privilege to be able to help tell that story and share this information with others. « 


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