"(T)he differences in technology and culture between the two areas are very strong, showing the people of the two regions chose very different paths to the evolution of technology and society," Villa said. (10 Mysteries of the First Humans)
Hints of culture
Traces of civilization have been found going back nearly 80,000 years in Africa, but these fragments - bone tools, carved beads - vanish from the archaeological record by about 60,000 years ago.
In fact, almost nothing is known about what happened in Southern Africa between 40,000 and 20,000 years ago, Villa and his colleagues wrote online today (July 30) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This gap makes it hard to link middle-Stone Age societies to the ones that came later.
The researchers brought the latest in dating technology to bear on a site on the border of South Africa and Swaziland called Border Cave. They found that a number of the artifacts in the cave were much older than expected. (See Amazing Cave Photos)
Ostrich eggshell beads, sharp bone points likely used for arrowheads, and notched bones were among the fragments of life dating back thousands of years before the San were thought to have emerged. One long-bone tool is decorated with a spiral incision that was then filled with red-clay pigment. A set of warthog or pig tusks shows signs of grinding and scraping. Other bones are marked with notches, as if they were used to keep a tally of something.