Archaeologists have unearthed 270 pieces of engraved ostrich eggshell dated to around 60,000 years ago from a site called Diepkloof in South Africa’s Western Cape province. The fragments constitute what the researchers say is the “earliest evidence of a graphic tradition among prehistoric hunter-gatherer populations.” As such, the finds help to illuminate the emergence of symbolic representation—a hallmark of modern human behavior.
The Diepkloof artisans favored two patterns. The first motif, which occurs in the older levels at the site, is a hatched band that looks rather like a train track; the second motif, which decorates eggshell pieces from younger levels at the site, consists of a series of deeply engraved parallel lines. (The different colors of the fragments in the image above resulted accidentally from exposure to fire after the the engravings were made and the eggshell broke.) Because some of the fragments show evidence of punctured openings, the team posits that they are the remnants of containers. Recent Kalahari hunter-gatherers and other groups have been known to use the large, sturdy shells of ostrich eggs as flasks for storing water and other liquids…
Little by little, we keep moving back when we think humans became humanity.