- Title: SOUTH AFRICA: Archaeologists uncover an ancient art studio in South Africa
- Date: 22nd October 2011
- Summary: CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (OCTOBER 19, 2011) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF MUSEUM SIGN "IZIKO SA MUSEUM PLANETARIUM" ARCHAEOLOGIST AND MUSEUM CURATOR AND DR SVEN OUZMAN AND STAFF LIFTING LID OFF CASE THAT HOUSES COLLECTION OUZMAN ARTIFACTS/ BROKEN CANINE LEG FRAGMENT WITH OCHRE STAINING (SOUNDBITE) (English) ARCHAEOLOGIST AND MUSEUM CURATOR AND DR SVEN OUZMAN SAYING: "It's a very significant discovery because it gives us very early evidence of cognitive modernity. When we as homo sapiens sapiens started thinking as homo sapiens sapiens. For example we think we've looked the same for about a quarter of million years, but we've only started thinking like ourselves maybe for the last 100,000 years and this is on the edge of that find."
- Embargoed: 6th November 2011 12:00
- Location: South Africa, South Africa
- Country: South Africa
- Topics: Arts,History
- Reuters ID: LVA718WP0644VABAZMH1JVH9M0QV
- Story Text: Cape Town's Iziko Museum houses a rare collection showcasing what archaeologists say are tools in an ancient art studio, dating back to 100,000 years.
In recent findings published on Friday (October 14) in the prestigious U.S. periodical Science, archaeologists say they may have stumbled upon what could be the first ever ancient art studio in history.
"It's a very significant discovery because it gives us very early evidence of cognitive modernity. When we as homo sapiens sapiens started thinking as homo sapiens sapiens. For example we think we've looked the same for about a quarter of million years, but we've only started thinking like ourselves maybe for the last 100,000 years and this is on the edge of that find," said archaeologist and museum curator Dr Sven Ouzman said.
Among the artifacts were two abalone shells with traces of an ancient ink dating back about 100,000 years. Archaeologists say this could be the earliest known tools used by humans to decorate their bodies and make artwork.
The shells and other tools found in a South African cave appear to be used to make colours from ochre -- a pigment used to produce earthen shades of red and yellow.
The earliest example of ochre found prior to this dated back some 60,000 years.
"Ochre may have been applied with symbolic intent as decoration on bodies and clothing during the Middle Stone Age," said Christopher Henshilwood, a professor from the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg.
Henshilwood and a team of researchers found the shells and other tools used to make ochre powder that included bone, charcoal, grindstones and hammer stones in the Blombos Cave about 300 km (180 miles) east of Cape Town.
The two abalone shells were used to store a red, ochre-rich powder. Breathing holes in the shells were plugged, likely to store the ochre powder, and the finding indicates early humans had a rudimentary understanding of chemistry, they said.
"This discovery represents an important benchmark in the evolution of complex human cognition in that it shows that humans had the conceptual ability to source, combine and store substances that were then possibly used to enhance their social practices," Henshilwood said.
Ochre chips were crushed, combined with other materials and heated to produce a liquid that could be used for painting, the paper said.
Quartz sediment in the ochre was used to date the material. The researchers do not know for what the ochre was used.
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