The orthodox view of the emergence of modern human culture has received a major jolt, with new evidence from South Africa pushing the ‘official’ date back some 20,000 years – twice as far back as previously thought (to 42,000BCE).
The earliest unambiguous evidence for modern human behaviour has been discovered by an international team of researchers in a South African cave. The artefacts are near identical to modern-day tools of the indigenous African San bush people.
Although 75,000-year-old evidence for human innovation has previously been found in southern Africa, the meaning of these artefacts has been difficult to interpret.
“These were things that seem symbolic, but there’s no direct link to those people. We don’t know what they were thinking,” explained co-author Dr Lucinda Backwell of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.
These new discoveries, however, resemble modern day tools used by San hunter-gatherers so clearly as to remove any doubt as to their purpose.
“You can hold [one of the] ancient artefacts in your left hand and a modern artefact in your right and they’re exactly the same. It’s incredible… the functions are very, very clear,” Dr Backwell told the BBC.