Michael Balter (@mbalter): Very sophisticated complex & symbolic behaviors in Africa going back 500,000 years. Natufians, farmers of the Near East, were advanced hunter-gatherers, wore ornaments; had shell beads from 2,000 km away in the Indian Ocean

Jan 07, 04:09 AM

Photo: The Ain Sakhri lovers. British Museum: 11,000-year-old Natufian sculpture. The Epipaleolithic Natufian culture existed from around 13,050 to 7,550 BC in the Levant. The culture was unusual in that it supported a sedentary or semi-sedentary population even before the introduction of agriculture. The Natufian communities may be the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region, which may have been the earliest in the world. Natufians founded Jericho, which may be the oldest city in the world. Some evidence suggests deliberate cultivation of cereals, specifically rye, by the Natufian culture, at Tell Abu Hureyra, the site of earliest evidence of agriculture in the world.

Permissions: You are free to: Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format; Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially. British Museum, GFDL CC-BY-SA. File: Lovers 9000BC british museum.jpg

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Michael Balter, Science Magazine, in re: Archaeology thinks that Mankind made leaps of cognition over the last hundred thousand years that explain revolutions in managing our environment and our habitat, and our ability to cook – leading to better nutrition and better brains.

It wasn’t so long ago that the majority of archaeologists were focussed on the Upper Paleolithic in Europe, about 50,000 years ago. Theory was that people didn’t do art till they got to Europe [puzzling!]. Now we see it goes back 200,000 years in Africa. Till ten years ago we had no real evidence that people then had engaged in symbolic behavior (such as art). With spear points, we're pushing it back farther. In South Africa, very sophisticated behavior going back 500,000 years – and who knows how much farther back it'll go as we unearth more evidence? Gaps in the record are due not only to patchy excavation; there are times when complex behavior and symbolic behavior are more appropriate, certainly among large groups, where people may wear ornaments. 

Natufians, farmers of the Near East: the Neolithic “revolution”; they were sophisticated hunter-gatherers, wore ornaments. Site Karna 4, in Eastern Jordan, found sophisticated huts, habitations, ornaments, shell beads – some of the beads come from 2,000 km away in the Indian Ocean. . . . once you had agricultural surplusses in order to have village life, you get to fairly dramatic changes. Evolution, not revolution, for Homo sapiens.