From Scienceblogger "Not Rocket Science" : The latest finds show that people were carvings symbolic patterns into ostrich eggs as early as 60,000 years ago. Pierre-Jean Texier from the University of Bordeaux discovered a set of 270 eggshell fragments from Howieson Poort Shelter, a South African cave that has been a rich source of archaeological finds.
From Science News: The unusually large sample of 270 engraved eggshell fragments, mostly excavated over the past several years at Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa, displays two standard design patterns. Each pattern enjoyed its own heyday between approximately 65,000 and 55,000 years ago, the investigators report in a paper to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
(Back to Rocket Science): Judging by their patterns, the fragments must have come from at least 25 separate eggs, although probably many more. Texier says that the sheer number is "exceptional in prehistory". Their unprecedented diversity and etched patterns provide some of the best evidence yet for a prehistoric artistic tradition. While previous digs have thrown up piecemeal examples of symbolic art, Texier's finds allow him to compare patterns across individual pieces, to get a feel of the entire movement, rather than the work of an individual.
Back to Science News: Researchers already knew that the Howiesons Poort culture, which engraved the eggshells, engaged in other symbolic practices, such as engraving designs into pieces of pigment, that were considered to have been crucial advances in human behavioral evolution. But the Diepkloof finds represent the first archaeological sample large enough to demonstrate that Stone Age people created design traditions, at least in their engravings, Texier says.
(Continue reading full Science News story... )