Dr. Ceri Shipton of The Australian National University School of Culture, History, and Language (ANU) and a team of archaeologists have discovered a cave in Kenya that holds a stunning 30,000 artifacts that date back 78,000 years, including the amazing find of 48,000-year-old crayons.
This new discovery is a crucial one as it shows artifacts from the daily lives of Homo sapiens at just the point when they were starting to engage with the world in a much more modern fashion than previous Homo sapiens, as Heritage Daily report.
The Kenyan cave is especially important in the field of archaeology as it is the one cave that researchers have discovered in East Africa that shows what appears to be a continual flow of humans that resided in the area up until just 500 years ago, as Dr. Shipton explained.
“It is the most beautiful site I have ever worked on. As soon as I saw it I knew it was special. It has a continuous record with people there right up until 500 years ago. The site has amazing levels of preservation with so many of the artfacts in mint condition.”
The many artifacts discovered around the cave in Kenya include the phenomenal discovery of red ochre crayons that date back 48,000 years that are still in the same condition they were when they were abandoned, and which show signs of heavy use, according to Shipton.
“On the crayons we can still see the grooves where they have been used. They’re in the same condition now as when people discarded them.”
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Some of the other late Stone Age finds date from around 67,000 years ago and include beautifully made jewelry along with bones that have delicate designs carved into them, showing the distinct modern development of Homo sapiens during this time.
“You start to see things like decorated bones, beads made from marine shell or ostrich eggs, miniaturized stone tools, and bones carved into things like arrow points. This is the oldest date we have for when this behavior is first observed.”
Dr. Shipton also described how unusual it would have been at this point in time to have lived around the site of what was then a tropical forest, noting that humans generally preferred living in more open spaces back then.
“Early humans liked to be on open grassland where there is a lot of large animals for hunting. These people were living in tropical forest hunting smaller animals like monkeys and small deer, animals you may need more sophisticated technology to catch. What is striking about this record is the innovations you see in technology and material culture, and the ability to exploit both forest and savannah environments. It is this kind of behavioral flexibility that allowed our species to populate the rest of the world outside of Africa.”
The new study on artifacts found inside and around the 78,000-year-old cave discovered in Kenya can be read in the journal Nature Communications.