(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers have always speculated about when, how and why different populations have been in contact in the past.
The art of communication has evolved thanks to the world of social networks, where each person is just one click away, but this was not always the case.
Researchers have always speculated about when, how and why different populations have been in contact in the past. The answer to their question was a unique item discovered by scientists that people used almost 50 thousand years ago – beads made from ostrich eggshells.
Archaeologists have discovered that between 50,000 and 33,000 years ago, people in eastern and southern Africa used similar ostrich eggshell beads, suggesting a kind of long-distance social network spanning more than 3,000 kilometers.
A study published in the journal Nature says the technology for making balls from ostrich egg shells likely originated in East Africa and spread south to about 5 million people. This connection broke down about 33 thousand years ago, and the population remained isolated until the shepherds entered southern Africa.
“The result is surprising, but the pattern is clear. In the 50,000 years that we have studied, this is the only period of time during which the characteristics of the beads were the same,” said co-author Yin W. Wang.
According to researchers, ostrich egg shell beads are ideal artifacts for understanding ancient social relationships. These are the oldest jewelry in the world.
“It’s like following a trail of breadcrumbs. The beads are clues scattered across time and space just waiting to be noticed,” Jennifer M. Miller, lead author of the study, said in a statement.
The researchers compiled the largest ever database of ostrich eggshell beads, which included data from more than 1,500 individual beads found in 31 locations across southern and eastern Africa over the past 50,000 years.
In fact, the new connection is the oldest social network ever identified, and it coincides with a particularly wet period in East Africa.
The beads suddenly disappeared 33,000 years ago, due to significant global climate change. In East Africa, there has been a sharp decline in rainfall as the tropical rain belt has shifted south.
“These tiny beads have the ability to reveal more information about our past. We encourage other researchers to build on this database and continue to explore evidence of cultural connections in new regions,” Miller said.
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