from The LA Times

Artifacts indicate a 100,000-year-old art studio

In South Africa, abalone shells covered with pigment and tools for making paints are found in a cave, suggesting humans began thinking symbolically much earlier than previously recognized.

Blombos Cave, South Africa

Archeologists found evidence of a prehistoric art studio in Blombos Cave in South Africa. (Magnus Haaland / October 5, 2011)

By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / October 14, 2011

In a tiny South African cave, archaeologists have unearthed a 100,000-year-old art studio that contains tools for mixing powder from red and yellow rocks with animal fat and marrow to make vibrant paints as well as abalone shells full of dried-out red pigment, the oldest paint containers ever found.

The discovery, described in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, suggests that humans may have been thinking symbolically — more like modern-day humans think — much earlier than previously recognized, experts said. Symbolic thinking could have been a key evolutionary step in the development of other quintessentially human abilities, such as language, art and complex ritual.

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