After analysing a collection of 166 freshwater mussel shells found at Trinil, on the banks of the Bengawan Solo river in East Java – the site of the famous ‘Java Man’ find in 1886, researchers have come to a stunning conclusion:
Using an electron microscope, scientists found a zigzag set of grooves incised into one shell. The marks push back the date for the earliest known geometric engravings by our ancestors by at least 300,000 years.
According to one of the researchers, Wil Roebroeks of Lieden University in The Netherlands, “the simple zigzag on the shell is the earliest engraving known thus far in the history of humankind. But: we have no clue why somebody made it half a million years ago, and we explicitly refrain from speculating on it” in terms of art or symbolism”.