Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Speaking of Science: The importance of Blombos Cave

Speaking of Science
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The earliest drawing, per a study published Wednesday in Nature, was found in Blombos Cave. Blombos is a pocket punched into a cliff face in South Africa. It looks out over the Indian Ocean, 100 feet above sea level.

Blombos holds a special place in early human history; Stone Age humans lived there beginning about 130,000 years ago, until they abandoned it about 68,000 years ago. It was part home, part Home Depot.

Archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood, who has been studying the cave since the early 1990s, has worked his way up and down the cave's geologic timeline. In the sections from 100,000 years ago, he's found paintbrushes made of animal bone in a space he described as a workshop. In abalone shells, prehistoric humans mixed powdered rock with animal fat, charcoal and water. The result was a bright red liquid, perhaps used as paint.

In the level dating to 75,000 years ago, he and his colleagues discovered snail shells fashioned into necklace beads. And at a spot in the timeline about 73,000 years ago, the scientists found the drawing, The Washington Post reports this week.


Previously, the oldest known cave art included paintings of animals found in France. More than a decade ago, Henshilwood told The Washington Post that "Europe is not the center of modern human behavior . . . it's in Africa." His latest research in Blombos seems to drive that point home again.


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