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The Paint Factory of Blombos
October 13, 2011 9:28 PM   Subscribe

For the last few decades, discoveries at Blombos Cave near Capetown have been pushing back our timeframe for the earliest known periods of complex human thought. Henshilwood et al have now discovered a 100,000 year old ocher paint factory at the same site.
posted by jjray (17 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
One hundred thousand! Good lord.

"What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm of time?
If thou remember'st aught ere thou camest here,
How thou camest here thou mayst."
posted by Iridic at 9:35 PM on October 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is really pretty fabulous to find out people have been trying to decorate themselves and their surroundings this long. Even the blocks of ochre had carvings.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:06 PM on October 13, 2011


Well it's good to know that color was popular at some point in human history.
posted by The Whelk at 11:27 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember hearing on the radio several years ago on the "religious" channel, this guy was attempting to disprove man's evolution from apes by claiming that since "ancient man" had a very detailed understanding of the moon and stars from very many years ago, "ancient man" was never the "dumb brute" as claimed by scientists. Therefore scientists are wrong that "ancient man" did not spring fully formed from god's brain.

Just reminded me of that and how this guy must be over-the-moon with how much more evidence he has that scientists totally don't understand "ancient man".
posted by bleep at 11:32 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wonderful wonderful wonderful. Amazing and impossible to think about so much unrecorded human history, so many unknown thoughts and stories. So much unknown. It reminds me of Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot talk. Now, there are great whites in the sea near Cape Town. I wonder what was there back then.
posted by doteatop at 5:43 AM on October 14, 2011


If serious scientists can question the timeframe for the earliest known periods of complex human thought, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth's atmosphere.
posted by etc. at 6:19 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


120,001BC - first evidence of man-made objects with no obvious function
120,000BC - first regifting
posted by zippy at 6:31 AM on October 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Another reason why we all feel the need to get back to Africa (I've never met one person who, having been there, doesn't feel compelled to return). Toto had it right all along...
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 7:07 AM on October 14, 2011


Neat!
posted by benito.strauss at 7:13 AM on October 14, 2011


I look forward to them realizing that the prehistoric hand paintings were actually six sigma hunting continuous improvement exhortations and workplace safety messages.
posted by srboisvert at 7:14 AM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


To be contrary, I've been to Africa and have no compulsion to return.

On topic, though, I'm convinced there are literally lifetimes worth of discovery still awaiting us concerning our ancestors. Our "starting point" for present day humanity in terms of civilization generally goes back about 6,000 years or so, which means that nearly 9/10ths of our species existence remains mostly unknown. I love these discoveries.
posted by Atreides at 7:20 AM on October 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm interested in just what it was about the early African population that made it subsume all the other related homonids. Europeans and Asians are 1-4% Neanderthal and some in New Guinea are a few % Denisovian. Was it that the out of Africa population had better developed language? (But Neanderthals had modern FOXP2). Motor control? Was it something about the genes regulating the timing of development?
posted by Schmucko at 7:23 AM on October 14, 2011


I just finished reading Sex at Dawn, and a lot of that book is about refuting the idea that prehistoric man tended to live a life that was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". The book tries to show that that idea was just a projection of early-industrial urban European hell onto the past, and by the framework put forward in that book I think the presence of complex culture so early in humanity's history should be unsurprising.

I don't really know if I believe everything put forward in the book (though I'd like to!), but what the book definitely did do for me was underline how flimsy and still open to debate our knowledge of pre-agricultural humanity is.

In short, what Atreides said.
posted by tempythethird at 7:50 AM on October 14, 2011


Once I get my hands on a time machine, I'm going to go to 100,000 years in the past and teach everybody to read and write, and to make paper and ink. I will convince them that it is their duty to keep a diary, and to maintain archives.

Then I'm gonna come back to now and we'll have all this stuff written down and it will be awesome.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 8:06 AM on October 14, 2011


Whoa! Slow down! I'm still trying to wrap my head around the 30kyo Chauvet caves!
posted by whuppy at 9:57 AM on October 14, 2011


I'm interested in just what it was about the early African population that made it subsume all the other related homonids.

I remember reading something about how it was the discovery and consumption of protein-rich shellfish in coastal South African populations that caused an explosion in brain processing power, leading to all kinds of innovation (perhaps like the paint factory in the link).
posted by bleep at 4:52 PM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If serious scientists can question the timeframe for the earliest known periods of complex human thought, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth's atmosphere.

There sure is.

For example, climatologists have multiple climate models in competition with one another.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:42 PM on October 14, 2011


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