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Tools and jewels of Africa’s early inland innovators
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Ancient ostrich eggshell shards and crystal collections suggest early African inlanders were as creative as their coastal cousins.
Abundant archaeologic evidence of seashell tools and trinkets across Africa has led many to assume that early human innovation was limited to coastal regions or that the arid interior was uninhabitable.
Now, a team that included researchers from the University of Cape Town has unearthed a collection of calcite crystals and fragmented ostrich eggshells from beneath the Ga-Mohana rock shelter in South African Kalahari, more than 600 kilometres inland.
The crystals appear to have been gathered from afar, possibly for spiritual purposes, while the eggshells were likely used to carry water. The team dated their discoveries to around 105,000 years — around the same age as the earliest seashell tools.
Dating of nearby rock formations suggests water periodically flowed through the region between 100,000 and 110,000 years ago, enabling early humans to thrive far from the coast.
- Nature 592, 248–252 (2021). doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03419-0