The first Homo sapiens exhibited unexpected sophistication



WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In an African landscape covered with grbad, some of the first members of our species, Homo sapiens, engaged in surprisingly sophisticated behaviors, including the use of color pigments, the creation of advanced tools and the exchange of resources with other groups of people.

A bird's-eye view of the Olorgesailie basin shows a change in the environment 500,000 years ago, which marks the latest known evidence from handaxe tool makers in the Olorgesailie basin, and the most recent sediments date back to 320,000 years and less, that preserve the evidence of Middle Stone Age, in southern Kenya in this undated photograph published on March 15, 2018. Courtesy of the Human Origins Program, Smithsonian / Brochure via REUTERS

Those findings were reported on Thursday by scientists who examined artifacts dating back 320,000 years ago unearthed in southern Kenya, about the same age as the oldest known fossils of Homo sapiens discovered in other parts of Africa.

The researchers described the ocher pigment that produced a bright red color, which could have been used for body painting or other symbolic expression, and tools made of obsidian, a volcanic rock that produces extremely sharp blades, which contrasted with the clbadic ones . by previous species in the human evolutionary lineage.

Researchers found abundant evidence of long-distance obsidian transfer to the location of the Olorgesailie Basin from sites up to 55 miles (88 km) away over rugged terrain, which led them to believe that it was acquired from another group through trade, although what was provided in return was unknown.

The findings indicate advances in technology and unexpected social structures so early in the history of our species, they said.

"My point of view is that these newly developed mental and social skills, including the awareness of distant groups, the use of pigments and innovative technologies, including projectile points, were the basis of the origin of our species," he said. paleoanthropologist Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins Program of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Smithsonian researchers are seen at the excavation site of the Olorgesailie Basin where red ocher pigments were found with artifacts from the Middle Stone Age, in southern Kenya in this undated photograph published on March 15, 2018. Courtesy of the Human Origins Program, Smithsonian / Brochure via REUTERS

"It is possible that they may have been the behaviors that distinguished our lineage / set of genes from other early human species".

The team discovered pigment materials, a dark brown color of manganese and bright red ocher.

Smithsonian researchers are seen at the excavation site of the Olorgesailie Basin in southern Kenya in this undated photograph delivered on March 15, 2018. Human Origins, Smithsonian courtesy program / Brochure through REUTERS [19659009] "The choice to import ocher from a distance instead of using a more common local material that accomplishes the same purpose holds that having a red face or hair or clothing or weapons also conveys a symbolic message of some kind," he said. the paleoanthropologist Alison Brooks of the George Washington University and the program Human Origins of the museum. .

The researchers described the obsidian tools that were smaller, more elaborate and more specialized than the larger stone tools called handaxes used by previous human species.

Obsidian was used in a wide range of tools, including scrapers, chisel implements and grooving edges and also in small points that could be placed on the end of a wood or bone shaft to be used as a projectile weapon.

The research was published in the journal Science.

Will Dunham report; Edition of Sandra Maler


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