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Archaeologists Just Discovered the World’s Oldest Jewelry: This Set of 150,000-Year-Old Snail-Shell Beads in Morocco

Archaeologists found 33 snail shell beads in Morocco’s Bizmoune Cave.

by Sarah Cascone

The world's earliest known piece of jewellery has been found by archaeologists, who say the 150,000-year-old beads may have been worn as earrings or on a necklace. Photo by Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, courtesy of the University of Arizona.
The world’s earliest known piece of jewellery has been found by archaeologists, who say the 150,000-year-old beads may have been worn as earrings or on a necklace. Photo by Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, courtesy of the University of Arizona.

In a cave in the western Morocco desert, archaeologists have discovered the world’s oldest jewelry: a set of shell beads dated from 142,000 and 150,000 years ago.

Made from half-inch-long sea snail shells, the 33 beads turned up during excavations conducted between 2014 and 2018 near the mouth of Bizmoune Cave, about 10 miles inland from the coastal city of Essaouira.

Surveyors first found the cave in 2004, and initial excavations had been conducted in 2008 and 2009. The team behind the discovery published their findings earlier this fall in the journal Science Advances.

“[The beads] were probably part of the way people expressed their identity with their clothing,” Steven L. Kuhn, a professor of anthropology in the University of Arizona and one of the paper’s authors, said in a statement. “They’re the tip of the iceberg for that kind of human trait. They show that it was present even hundreds of thousands of years ago, and that humans were interested in communicating to bigger groups of people than their immediate friends and family.”

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Posted on November 27, 2021 by Editor

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