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FEATURE NEWS

OUT OF AFRICA:
Our ancestors were living in Africa long before we had believed.

July 31, 2012




Excavation at the Border Cave. Photo courtesy Paola Villa, University of Colorado


Cro-Magnon skull discovered in France in 1868 represents one of the first fossils of an ancient human ever discovered. This man lived about 30,000 years ago. Image courtesy Wikicommons
(INTERNATIONAL) -- There is a famous long-term archeological dig at a cave in Africa called the Border Cave. Discovered in 1933 the large rock shelter is located near the crest of the Lebombo Mountains between South Africa and Swaziland.

First excavated in 1940 by a bat guano miner, it’s been discovered over the years that the Border Cave's archeological deposits include important Middle to Late Stone Age Transition of humans, about 30,000 to 50,000 years ago and Middle Stone Age occupations some 45,000 to 75,000 years ago, including human remains.

Now researchers have found in that cave the first signs of poison darts and beeswax used in tool making by early humans, suggesting that our most recent ancestors, a modern hunter-gatherer culture emerged in Africa much earlier than previously thought.

As in 20,000 years before we previously thought.

Some artifacts found at the Border Cave have been reanalyzed and dated to 44,000 years ago, about twice as old as the time frame widely believed, says the research reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research centered on items left by what are known as the San people, including ostrich eggshell beads, bone arrowhead points, wooden digging sticks, warthog tusks and beeswax likely used for making tools.

Women are believed to have used those digging sticks to unearth bulbs and termite larvae for food.

Those sticks are also now the oldest artifacts of that kind used by ear;y humans known to exist in South Africa or anywhere else in Africa, according to Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

Advancing hunting technology was also in use by the cave’s inhabitants. They used thinner bone points for arrows, with some arrow tips dipped in poison in order to bring down medium and larger sized animals.

The poison used is believed to be ricinoleic acid, which can be extracted from the seeds of castor oil plants.





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