Terra Amata Shelter

Terra Amata Shelter
Date of discovery: 
1966
Discovered by: 
Henri de Lumley
Age: 
About 400,000 years old
Site: 
Terra Amata, France

Making shelters

This ancient shelter, reconstructed here, provided protection for an early human family or social group. Scientists found post holes and other evidence of multiple shelters at this site. Some shelters were as long as 14.9 m (49 ft)

Reconstruction illustration of 400,000-year-old shelter from Terra Amata, France
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Ancient Pigments

Ancient Pigments
Date of discovery: 
1996
Discovered by: 
Larry Barham
Age: 
250,000 years old
Site: 
Twin Rivers, Zambia

Communicating with symbols

The flattened areas on these hematite (left) and limonite (right) pieces of pigment are signs of grinding or rubbing, telling us that they were held and used like chunky crayons. With pigments, our ancestors marked objects and possibly their own skin. Colors were symbols by which they identified themselves and their group.

Hematite Crayon, Twin Rivers, Zambia
Limonite Crayon, Twin Rivers, Zambia
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Projectile Point

Projectile Point
Age: 
Over 104,000 years old
Site: 
Omo Kibish, Ethiopia

Tools for capturing fast and dangerous prey

Stone or bone projectile points, like the one seen here, attached to spears or darts and enabled humans to exploit fast-moving prey like birds and large, dangerous prey like mammoths.

Omo Kibish Point
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Qafzeh: Oldest Intentional Burial

Qafzeh: Oldest Intentional Burial
Date of discovery: 
1933
Discovered by: 
R. Neuville
Age: 
About 100,000 years old
Site: 
Qafzeh

Intentional burial

At Qafzeh, Israel, the remains of as many as 15 individuals were found in a cave, along with 71 pieces of red ocher and ocher-stained stone tools. The ocher was found near the bones, suggesting it was used in a ritual.

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Katanda Bone Harpoon Point

Katanda Bone Harpoon Point
Date of discovery: 
1988
Discovered by: 
Alison Brooks and John Yellen
Age: 
About 90,000 - 80,000 years old
Site: 
Katanda, Democratic Republic of Congo

Modern humans make special tools for fishing

Katanda Harpoon
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Blombos Ocher Plaque

Blombos Ocher Plaque
Date of discovery: 
1991
Discovered by: 
Christopher Henshilwood
Age: 
About 77,000 - 75,000 years old
Site: 
Blombos Cave, Republic of South Africa

Recording information on objects

This ocher plaque has marks that may have been used to count or store information. A close-up look at the object shows that the markings are clearly organized. This systematic pattern suggests to some researchers that the markings represent information rather than decoration.

Engraved ocher, Blombos Cave, South Africa
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Bone Awls

Bone Awls
Date of discovery: 
1991
Discovered by: 
Christopher Henshilwood
Age: 
About 77,000 years old
Site: 
Blombos Cave, Republic of South Africa

Making clothing

Awls and perforators were probably invented in Africa and carried to colder climates, where they were used to pierce holes in clothing.

Three Blombos Cave Bone Awls
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Apollo 11 Plaque

Apollo 11 Plaque
Date of discovery: 
1969
Age: 
Between 60,000 and 40,000 years old

Modern humans create permanent drawings

What kind of animal do you think this charcoal figure represents? Some people believe the hind legs are human. This stone plaque is one of several carried into Apollo 11 Rock Shelter in Namibia where they were discovered in 1969 (when the first spacecraft - Apollo 11 - landed on the moon). Radiocarbon and other dating methods confirm that the cave layer that contained this plaque is between 60,000 and 40,000 years old.

Apollo 11 plaque; Apollo 11 Rock Shelter, Namibia
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Ancient Flute

Ancient Flute
Date of discovery: 
2004
Discovered by: 
Nicholas J. Conard
Age: 
About 35,000 years old
Site: 
Geissenklösterle Cave, Germany

Creating musical instruments

This flute is one of the world’s oldest manufactured musical instruments. Two pieces of carved and hollowed-out mammoth ivory were joined together and sealed. The flute had at least three finger holes and played a five-note scale.

Mammoth ivory flute (cast) from Geissenklosterle Cave, Germany.
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Bone and Ivory Needles

Bone and Ivory Needles
Age: 
About 30,000 - 23,000 years old
Site: 
Xiaogushan, Liaoning Province, China

Making well fitted clothing

Humans used bone and ivory needles like these  to sew warm, closely fitted garments.

Three bone needles Xiaogushan, China
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