Oldest known shell engravings made by Homo erectus discovered

Well. This is a discovery for the books. The oldest known engravings ever discovered were made by our very own human ancestor, Homo erectus, a new study has revealed.

Researchers sifted through a number of sea shells discovered in Java, Indonesia in the 1890s. The shells date back between 540,000 and 430,000 years old, around the time of Homo erectus.


The shells provide new information on these prehistoric species, who are known for their stone tools. But they also used shells as tools. From the edges, researchers could see that some were worked, perhaps for cutting. But the sea shell that’s making all the headlines is the one with the engravings.

The marks are mere scratches and zigzags, but it’s enough to link some form of artistic creativity primarily┬áconnected with humans, with our ancient ancestor. The marks were likely made with a shark tooth, and would’ve have looked different to how it looks today. With a darker outer shell, the markings would have been white.


About 80% of the shells have a small hole near the opening as well, which is suggested as being a smart way that Homo erectus opened these mollusks for the meat without breaking the shell apart and spoiling the inner juiciness.

This new study reveals the subsistence patterns of Homo erectus in Java, with the full study being published in the journal Nature on 3 December 2014.


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