(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have discovered an engraving on animal bones made by primitive hunters 120 thousand years ago. This is one of the oldest evidences of human use of visual symbols – a practice that eventually developed into painting, and then into writing.
The discovery is described in a scientific article published in the journal Quaternary International by a group led by Yossi Zaidner of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Modern culture is unthinkable without visual symbols, be it letters of the alphabet, road signs or the creations of artists. Undoubtedly, mastering this method of transmitting information has become an important milestone on the path of turning a smart ape into a Homo sapiens. After all, the symbol of an object is not the object itself, and in order to interpret it, developed thinking is required. But when did people draw their first sign?
The world’s oldest examples of cave painting are a little over 45 thousand years old. The oldest surviving sculptures are even younger. But scientists believe that already 100-250 millennia ago, our ancestors could express their thoughts or feelings by scratching something on a suitable surface. However, there is very little evidence to support this point of view.
Therefore, the researchers were so delighted with the find made in Israel. In the layers of an archaeological site of 120 thousand years old, replete with flint tools, the researchers discovered a fragment of a tur bone with unusual markings.
To an inexperienced eye, these are just six transverse scratches with a length of 38 to 42 millimeters. It is difficult to call them a drawing, and it is unlikely that a layman could see a certain symbol in them.
However, experts have carefully studied the find using a variety of methods and made an unambiguous verdict. First, this engraving was done by a man using a flint tool. Second, he was clearly making a focused effort.
In other words, the hunter did not accidentally scratch the bone while cutting the carcass. And he did not absent-mindedly drive the edge over the turned bone, creating meaningless scribbles. This man knew exactly what he was striving for, creating his creation, which is simple in a modern view.
“We reject any suggestion that these grooves were some kind of unintentional pattern. A creative product of this type would not have shown this level of attention to detail,” says first author Marion Prévost of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Experts determined that the creator of this engraving was right-handed and most likely finished his work in one go. But, of course, the most important thing in her is age.
“It’s fair to say that we have discovered one of the oldest engraved symbols ever found on Earth, and certainly the oldest in the Levant,” Seidner says.
But what and to whom did the man who stubbornly scratch the bone with a flint tool want to say? One can only guess about this. However, scientists have a version.
Modern tribes of hunters and gatherers, studied by ethnographers, revere their hunting object as a breadwinner. They believe that the beast voluntarily accepted death in order to give people food. The hunters thank the killed animal for the mercy shown. Often, deer hunters or, for example, bison hunters consider the spirit of a deer (respectively, a bison) as their ancestor and patron.
It is possible that the engraving on the bone of a tur was associated with a similar attitude towards this bull on the part of the hunter. However, it is unlikely that we will ever know for sure.
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