Engraved pigments point to ancient symbolic tradition

Incisions on ochre from a South African cave suggest modern human behavior emerged around 100,000 years ago

By Bruce Bower, 13:02 PM June 12, 2009

Scientists excavating a Stone Age cave on South Africa’s southern coast have followed a trail of engraved pigments to what they suspect are the ancient roots of modern human behavior.

Analyses of 13 chunks of decorated red ochre (an iron oxide pigment) from Blombos Cave indicate that a cultural tradition of creating meaningful geometric designs stretched from around 100,000 to 75,000 years ago in southern Africa, say anthropologist Christopher Henshilwood of the University of the Witwatersr...

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