Human jewelry culture long before the settlement of Europe
Homo sapiens was a civilized human long before he set foot on European soil. This is what researchers conclude from snail shells from Israel and North Africa that are probably at least 100,000 years old and have been processed into pieces of jewellery. The anthropogenic marine chain jewelry is thus around 25,000 years older than similar specimens previously unearthed in South Africa, which were previously considered the oldest such evidence.
The scientists around Marian Vanhaeren from University College London had searched for snail finds in old museum holdings, which had been cataloged as accompanying finds of early human remains. They discovered two decades ago in Es-Skhul, Israel, and a perforated shell of the snail species Nassarius gibbosulus excavated in Oued-Djebbana, Algeria, which the scientists analyzed had served as ornaments for early humans.
The researchers believe that the age of the shells found in Skhul in 1930 can be precisely dated retrospectively by comparing an adhering soil sample with those of the layers of the site that have been examined in detail. The snail shell can therefore be attributed to a layer in which ten anatomically modern Homo sapiens skeletons from the Levantine Mousterian were also buried. According to recent electron spin resonance studies of a molar, they lived between 100,000 and 135,000 years ago.
The snail shell found in Algeria could also be "Image" similar, the researchers speculate. It was found on relics from the North African Aterian culture, which some scientists date back to 90,000 years ago. However, the site itself has not been adequately dated. According to the researchers, the snail species themselves also provide indications of a high age: The shells are significantly larger than today's Nassarius specimens. In the last interglacial period, the Riss/Würm Interglacial, which ended around 115,000 years ago, the species had developed thicker and wider shells than those found in specimens. alt="
According to the researchers, it is undisputed that the snails were worn as jewelry on chains. This is indicated by signs of wear and the perforation. Although in very rare cases similar wear marks and holes could also appear during storage in the ground, it is extremely unlikely that two such specimens would end up lying next to each other in a cave, as in Skhul. According to Vanhaeren, people must have deliberately perforated them or already collected copies that were appropriately punched. In addition, the maritime gems were apparently transported and traded over long distances: the discovery site in Algeria, for example, was never closer than 190 kilometers from the coast.
According to the researchers, the jewelery finds prove that early anatomically modern people had already reached modern cultural-cognitive stages of development. Apparently, the idea of wearing jewelry for cultic, symbolic or aesthetic reasons existed in the North African-Levantic region long before the first Homo sapiens advanced to Europe 40,000 years ago. And with the cult came the ability to communicate verbally, the scientists believe.