Is found in cave

Craig Foster via AP

Some human or humans (Homo sapiens) used a red-ochre crayon to draw a hashtag-like design on a rock flake in what is now South Africa about 73,000 years ago, said the researchers who analyzed the doodle.

What does the drawing your team found look like?

The discovery of the ochre drawing is exceptional but not unexpected, said Emmanuelle Honoré, a fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge in England, who wasn't involved with the study.

The drawing, which consists of three red lines intersecting with six other lines, is reminiscent of the pound symbol. This suggests it was made after that flake became detached.

So the pattern was probably more complex and structured in its entirety than in this truncated form. In other words, it's a conscious drawing made by an early human. What was the earliest known drawing found before this?

While scientists have found older engravings around the world, research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature says the lines on this stone mark the first abstract drawing. But very little ochre was applied to the silcrete flake, leading the authors to conclude that the lines couldn't have had any "utilitarian objective", and that it was a drawing. It's also worth noting that patterns drawn on a stone are less durable than those engraved on an ochre fragment and may not survive transport.

He told Reuters that while the team would be "hesitant to call it art", it nearly definitely had "some meaning to the maker".

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'It is definitely an abstract design; it nearly certainly had some meaning to the maker and probably formed a part of the common symbolic system understood by other people in this group, ' he told The Conversation. "We are looking at people whose brains were wired in quite similar ways to ours". And do we know which group they belonged to on our ancestral tree? It adds to evidence that early populations of Homo sapiens were capable of abstract thought and used symbols tens of thousands of years before they migrated to Europe.

"We can reconstruct it and put everything back digitally", says Karen van Niekerk, principal investigator at Bergen University's Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour. They were able to produce and use symbolic material culture to mediate their behaviour, just like we do now.

Once used as shelter by hunter-gatherers, Blombos Cave is now a significant archaeological site for researchers seeking to understand our early ancestors. Can you explain why?

Blombos Cave is situated 50 m from the Indian Ocean, elevated at 35 m above sea level and 300 km east of Cape Town. These include shell beads covered with ochre and, more importantly, pieces of ochres engraved with abstract patterns. Some of these engravings closely resemble the one drawn on the silcrete flake.

In fact, the 73,000-year-old ocher drawing is significantly older than the spectacular cave art that has been found in Spain and Indonesia, and would have been created almost 30,000 years before Homo sapiens were drawing pictures of wild animals and other objects in these European caves. For example, a zig-zag pattern etched onto a shell in Trinil Java has been dated to 540,000 years ago (this discovery pre-dates Homo sapiens, so it was likely made by Homo erectus).

The silcrete flake was found in a layer of sediment previously dated to 73,000 years old, and in a cave that has previously been found to contain ochre pieces. Read the original article.

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