Southern African Paleolithic (44,000 years ago) and the San ("Bushmen") ethno-linguistic group
Researchers: Modern culture may have earlier start
By EMOKE BEBIAK Associated Press – Mon. July 30, 2012
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Poisoned-tipped arrows and jewelry made of ostrich egg beads found in South Africa show modern culture may have emerged about 30,000 years earlier in the area than previously thought, according to two articles published on Monday.
The findings published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" show that the 44,000-year-old artifacts are characteristic of the San hunter-gatherers. The descendants of San people live today in southern Africa, so the items can clearly be traced forward to modern culture, unlike other archaeological finds, researchers said.
South African researcher Lucinda Backwell said the findings are the earliest known instances of "modern behavior as we know it." Backwell said the discovery reinforces the theory that modern man came from southern Africa.
The carbon dating on the items shows that traces of the San culture may have existed earlier than the previous estimate of somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, the journal said.
The find, discovered at Border Cave close to South Africa's northeastern border with Swaziland, is a comprehensive package of hunting kits and jewelry made of ostrich egg and marine shell beads.
Backwell, who was part of the team of international researchers that made the find, said the artifacts created as many as 44,000 years ago served the same purposes as they would today.
"They all have a specific reason we understand, that's why we can name them," Backwell said.
The researchers' articles said the Border Cave people used poisoned arrows to hunt and put spiral engraving on arrowheads to indicate ownership. The latter practice has been preserved in the San culture, they said.
Professor Francesco d'Errico of the French National Research Centre, who led the research team, said that the findings tell of a people who were highly evolved.
"They were fully modern genetically and cognitively," d'Errico said.
Their cognitive development is evident in their symbolic behavior, the professor said. The ostrich egg beads were not only ornaments, but played a major role in bartering with neighboring groups, he said. That practice continues today.
The paper claimed that the fossils show that all modern culture came from southern Africa, though the researchers acknowledged it remains difficult to pinpoint where in history that modernity began.
Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist at Lehman College of the City University of New York, said that while the testing used by the researchers to determine the age of the fossils was very clear and reliable, the findings didn't support the idea that all modern human cultures are connected to this find.
He said there is evidence that a modern culture already existed in Europe around the time the new find is dated.
"They say, 'Modern human behavior first found!'" Delson said. "Well, not exactly."
He did, however, applaud the research for finding the origins of one specific group of modern people.
Scientists from Britain, France, Italy, Norway, South Africa and the U.S. all took part in the research, helmed out of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
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* Tomado de: http://news.yahoo.com/researchers-modern-culture-may-earlier-start-171918659.html
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Oldest Poison Pushes Back Ancient Civilization 20,000 Years
By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer LiveScience.com –
Mon. July 30, 2012
The late Stone Age may have had an earlier start in Africa than previously thought — by some 20,000 years.
A new analysis of artifacts from a cave in South Africa reveals that the residents were carving bone tools, using pigments, making beads and even using poison 44,000 years ago. These sorts of artifacts had previously been linked to the San culture, which was thought to have emerged around 20,000 years ago.
"Our research proves that the Later Stone Age emerged in South Africa far earlier than has been believed and occurred at about the same time as the arrival of modern humans in Europe," study researcher Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, said in a statement.
The Later Stone Age in Africa occurred at the same time as Europe's Upper Paleolithic Period, when modern humans moved into Europe from Africa and met the Neanderthals about 45,000 years ago.
"[T]he differences in technology and culture between the two areas are very strong, showing the people of the two regions chose very different paths to the evolution of technology and society," Villa said.
Hints of culture
Traces of civilization have been found going back nearly 80,000 years in Africa, but these fragments — bone tools, carved beads — vanish from the archaeological record by about 60,000 years ago.
In fact, almost nothing is known about what happened in Southern Africa between 40,000 and 20,000 years ago, Villa and his colleagues wrote online today (July 30) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This gap makes it hard to link middle-Stone Age societies to the ones that came later.
The researchers brought the latest in dating technology to bear on a site on the border of South Africa and Swaziland called Border Cave. They found that a number of the artifacts in the cave were much older than expected.
Ostrich eggshell beads, sharp bone points likely used for arrowheads, and notched bones were among the fragments of life dating back thousands of years before the San were thought to have emerged. One long-bone tool is decorated with a spiral incision that was then filled with red-clay pigment. A set of warthog or pig tusks shows signs of grinding and scraping. Other bones are marked with notches, as if they were used to keep a tally of something.
The researchers also found beads, several apparently deliberately blackened by fire, one dating back more than 38,000 years. A piece of wood associated with a stone with a hole through it was dated to about 35,000 years ago. The tool appears to be an early digging stick of the sort used by the later San people to unearth roots and termite larvae.
The researchers also dated a lump of beeswax mixed with toxic resin that was likely used to haft, or attach, stone points to the shafts of arrows or spears. The beeswax dates to about 35,000 years ago, making it the oldest known example of beeswax being used as a tool.
Finally, researchers dated a thin wooden stick scarred with perpendicular scratches. A chemical analysis revealed traces of ricinoleic acid, a natural poison found in castor beans. It's likely that the stick was an applicator used to put poison on an arrow or spearheads, the archaeologists reported. At about 20,000 years old, the applicator marks the first use of poison ever discovered.
"The very thin bone points from the Later Stone Age at Border Cave are good evidence for bow and arrow use," Villa said. "The work by d'Errico and colleagues [published alongside Villa's group's report in the same journal] shows that the points are very similar in width and thickness to the bone points produced by San culture that occupied the region in prehistoric times, whose people were known to use bows and arrows with poison-tipped bone points as a way to bring down medium and large-sized herbivores."
The ancient dates help fill in a continuity gap of human civilization, said study researcher Lucinda Backwell, a researcher in palaeoanthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
"The dating and analysis of archaeological material discovered at Border Cave in South Africa, has allowed us to demonstrate that many elements of material culture that characterize the lifestyle of San hunter-gatherers in southern Africa, were part of the culture and technology of the inhabitants of this site 44,000 years ago," Backwell said.
It seems plausible that these technologies arose 50,000 to 60,000 years ago in Africa and later spread to Europe, Villa said.
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* Tomado de: http://news.yahoo.com/oldest-poison-pushes-back-ancient-civilization-20-000-190830216.html
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