The human race is known for its creativity, having been painting in caves and carving in stone for thousands and thousands of years. Over the last few decades, as we’ve turned to discovering and preserving much of our history, we’ve found countless pieces of art throughout the globe, much of it dating back as far as 30000 years ago.
Paintings found in caves in Spain, for example, were long thought to be the oldest ever, being left there by our ancient ancestors, countless years before we began recording our own history. But a recent discovery in the country of South Africa, often considered to be the cradle of mankind, has proven that our art origins may, in fact, be significantly older than we first realised.
What Was Found
Some years ago, scientists in South Africa found a rock made out of silcrete, which is a mineral that’s formed through the merging of gravel cement and sand. The flake, which would otherwise be completely unremarkable to most people, was found to have a series of scratches across its surface.
The flake was found in Blombos Cave, which is located around 300 kilometres from the capital city of Cape Town in the western cape. The cave overlooks the Indian Ocean and was almost certainly a resting place for the prehistoric people of the area looking for a place to take shelter during the night.
Around 70000 years ago, the mouth of the cave was closed up due to the shifting nature of the sand dunes and rising sea levels, and it was a process that took place number of times, sealing off the cave for long periods of time before opening up again, and it’s believed to be the reason that so much in the cave was preserved.
Why The Stone Is Important
The stone itself, which is believed to have been carved upon some 73000 years ago by prehistoric humans and before the cave closed up, shows scratches almost in the form of a hashtag. This is important, as it shows that our ancestors were making art thousands of years before originally believed, and it’s a sign that they were behaviourally modern, a precursor for the start of civilisation. It also shows that Europe was not the only region where humans began this process, and adds another notch to the fact that South Africa is one of the starting points for much for the beginnings of the development of modern mankind and our world of televisions, smartphones, gaming websites, and space travel.
The Question of Art
While the researchers that found it describe it as art, others feel that it’s not the right description of the stone, suggesting that it’s nothing more than a crude drawing. But art tends to be subjective, and it’s been pointed out that abstract art is just as worthy of the title as this stone that was scratched upon 70000 years ago. Regardless, it’s a vital steppingstone in understanding the history of our species, and how we jumped from simple animals to the advanced civilisation that we are today.