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Earliest known human engraving discovered

By T.K. Randall
December 4, 2014 · Comment icon 29 comments

Homo erectus would have been very similar to modern humans. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Lillyundfreya
An engraving found on a fossilized shell is believed to have been made over 430,000 years ago.
The zig-zag pattern, which was discovered in Indonesia, is thought to have been created by a member of the Homo erectus species, an ancestor to modern humans that is believed to have gone extinct somewhere around 143,000 years ago.

Not only does the find significantly outdate the previous oldest known writing, which dates back 130,000 years, it is also the first evidence that Homo erectus was a lot more like modern humans than had been previously realized.
"Immediately when I saw the markings there I thought, those are human engravings, there's no other explanation," said Stephen Munro who co-authored the report. "This is the first time we have found evidence for Homo erectus behaving this way."

The discovery may help to confirm what scientists had long suspected - that Homo erectus possessed far greater manual dexterity and cognitive abilities than was previously thought.

Whether the engraving was actually created as a form of art however remains a mystery.

Source: BBC News | Comments (29)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #20 Posted by Hammerclaw 10 years ago
Yet anothe example of how wrong carbon dating can go Carbon dating is not reliable and not used on material over fifty thousand years old.
Comment icon #21 Posted by coolguy 10 years ago
This is a great find if humans made it or not
Comment icon #22 Posted by Ozfactor 10 years ago
It's mentioned in this, and another article I've read, that it's possible to determine that the etching was done while the shell was still fresh. The details of how this determined are not given. The age range of the shell, and etching is 430,000 to 540,000 years, so it's likely even older than the former figure. Maybe an older shell would leave ragged and torn microscopic zig zag trails ,the fresh shell is softer, the trails might be smoother .
Comment icon #23 Posted by Ozfactor 10 years ago
Homo Sapien exceptionalism is highly overrated and has it's roots in nineteenth century colonial attitudes and prejudices. Oh I must disagree , Homo Sapien exceptionalism is exceptional and nineteenth century colonial attitudes and prejudices are not . And our timeline keeps going further and further back with each new discovery... Calling it now: the Sphynx being older than 10,000 years will fit perfectly into the revised timeline. good call !
Comment icon #24 Posted by Hammerclaw 10 years ago
From the article: All I can say to that is, I've been telling you this for years right here at U-M. Harte It's a hard sell but true. It's hard to overcome the caveman image of our ancestors, deeply rooted and ingrained in anthropology in the nineteenth century, during the European colonial era. It was firmly believed that the apex of evolution was European Homo Sapiens, and that nothing else, not even other living races of the same species compared. Racism has fallen out of fashion, but evolutionary bias persists.
Comment icon #25 Posted by aquatus1 10 years ago
Yet anothe example of how wrong carbon dating can go Do you ever actually read or listen to the articles in these threads, or do you just automatically make another comment about dating methods when you see words like "Earliest" or "Dated"? Is it like a subconscious thing, where you don't even notice that your fingers are typing irrelevant things?
Comment icon #26 Posted by Calibeliever 10 years ago
Yet anothe example of how wrong carbon dating can go Yet another example of myopic ignorance gone right.
Comment icon #27 Posted by Harte 10 years ago
From the article: All I can say to that is, I've been telling you this for years right here at U-M. Harte Example; There are many other types of examples of the complexity of the ancients', as well as their capabilities. And remember, I'm one that's posted here that similar complexities could well have been within the purview of Homo Erectus. He's my favorite Homo! Link to 5 year old post - there are older ones. Told you so. Harte
Comment icon #28 Posted by lightly 10 years ago
... the shell wasn't Carbon Dated ... the strata/layer it was found in was dated to approximate the age of the shell. The marks were, to the researchers, obviously made on the Shell BEFORE it fossilized into a much harder form. Harte has been telling us for years about "his peeps" (Homo Erectus) A proud Heritage indeed. ; *which makes me wonder... Did they Die out?.. or eventually Morph into us? oh i'll google it.. i forgot. Yup! We's Family! human family tree
Comment icon #29 Posted by Gingitsune 10 years ago
Your family tree is old, lighty. We now know Heidelbergensis is the ancestor of Denisova and Neandertalis, but not Sapiens, thanks to DNA testing. The new family tree is currently looking like this:

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