OLD­EST KNOWN DRAW­ING FOUND IN SOUTH AFRICAN ROCK

Focus-Science and Technology - - DISCOVERIES -

Here’s the work of a re­ally old master. An in­ter­na­tional team of re­searchers have found what they be­lieve to be the old­est known ex­am­ple of a draw­ing – a series of cross­hatched lines sketched onto a frag­ment of rock with a red ochre crayon 73,000 years ago.

Dubbed L13, the frag­ment was found among a num­ber of stone tools, per­fo­rated shells and other ma­te­rial col­lected from the Blom­bos Cave in South Africa in 2011, a hol­low­ing nes­tled in­side a cliff face over­look­ing the In­dian Ocean. It is be­lieved that the cave was used as a rest­ing place by early hu­man hunters. Around 70,000 years ago the cave was sealed off by sand leav­ing the arte­facts in­side pro­tected from the el­e­ments and well pre­served.

Af­ter sev­eral years of mi­cro­scopic and chem­i­cal anal­y­sis, along with ex­per­i­men­tal recre­ations of the pat­tern us­ing var­i­ous tech­niques, the team de­ter­mined that the lines were drawn with a pointed ochre crayon and that the sur­face was first smoothed down by rub­bing. The pat­tern is the ear­li­est known draw­ing, pre­ced­ing the old­est pre­vi­ously dis­cov­ered works by at least 30,000 years, the re­searchers say.

It’s un­clear what the sym­bol meant, if any­thing, to those who drew it. But there is other ev­i­dence that the first Homo sapi­ens in this re­gion of Africa used dif­fer­ent tech­niques to pro­duce sim­i­lar signs on dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als, which sup­ports the the­ory that th­ese mark­ings served a sym­bolic func­tion.

The L13 frag­ment fea­tures in­ter­sect­ing red lines and was found in South Africa’s Blom­bos Cave (in­set)

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