The crystals revealed the earliest humans in Kalahari 105,000 years ago were as innovative as their neighbors.

Archaeological site Rock Shelter South Africa Kalahari Desert

Archaeological site in a stone shelter in the Kalahari Desert of South Africa: More than 100,000 years ago, people used the so-called Ga-Mohana Hill North Rockshelter for spiritual activities. Credit: Jane Wilkins

Archaeological evidence in a rock shelter on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa challenges the idea that the origin of our species was linked to the coastal environment.

“Our findings from this rock shelter show that overly simplistic models for the origin of our species are no longer acceptable. Evidence suggests that many regions of the African continent were included, with Kalhari being the only one, “said Dr. Wilkins.

“Archaeological evidence for early Homo sapiens has been found mostly on the coastal sites of South Africa. It supports the idea that our origins are connected to the coastal environment. There are many less well-preserved, archeological sites in the interior of South Africa that can tell us about the origins of Homo sapiens off the coast.

“A rock shelter on the hill of Gah-Mohan which is situated on a huge savannah in Kalhari is the only place.”

Archaeological excavations at Ga Mohana Hill North Rockshelter

Archaeological excavations at the Hill North Rockshelter in Ga-Mohan where preliminary evidence for complex Homo sapiens behavior was found. Credit: Jane Wilkins

Used today by some in the local community as a place of spiritual activities, the rock sanctuary has a long history revealed as a place of spiritual significance by archaeological research.

When the weather was much wetter than it is today, researchers dug up pieces from 22 white calcite crystals and ostrich eggs used as water containers from 105,000-year-old deposits at Ga-Mohan’s Hill North Rockshelter. The researchers were pleased to learn that human-collected crystals and ostrich egg litter fragments at Ga-Mohan Hill were significantly older than the reports reported elsewhere in the indoor environment.

“Our analysis suggests that the crystals were not inserted into the deposits by natural processes, but that they were intentionally collected in items associated with spiritual beliefs and rituals,” Dr. W. Wilkins said.

“The crystals point to the spiritual or cultural use of the shelter 105,000 years ago,” said Dr. Sashaba Mape of the University of Witwatersrand. “The remarkable thing is that the site is used to practice religious activities today.”

The age of the archaeological layers was blocked by optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) in the OSL laboratory in the Geology Department of the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

The head of OSL Laboratory, Dr. The technology measures natural light signals that accumulate over time in silt quartz and feldspar grains, said Michael Meyer. “You can think of each grain as a miniature clock, from which we can read this natural light or luminescence signal, giving us the age of archaeological sediment layers.”

Crystals stored by Homo sapiens in Kalahari

Crystals collected by early Homo sapiens 105,000 years ago in southern Kalahari. Credit: Jane Wilkins

The name Kalhari is derived from the word ksala, which means ‘great thirst’. And today the climate in Ga-Mohana is semi-arid, with very little, very seasonal rainfall. However, the ancient evidence of abundant water on the landscape is evident from the abundant tufa formations around the shelter. These were ages 110,000 and 100,000 years ago using the uranium-thorium dating method – the same period that people lived there.

Dr. Robin Pickering, director of the Human Evolution Research Institute, said, “We now know the dry landscape, and it’s the story of adaptive people who exploit the landscape to not only survive but thrive,” said Dr. Rob. Here) at the University of Cape Town.

Due to the ongoing spiritual significance of Ga-Mohan Hill, researchers are conscious of minimizing their impact on the use of local communities of rock shelters after each community.

“Leaving no visible traces and working with the local community is critical to the sustainability of the project,” said Dr. Said Wilkins. “So that Ga-Mohan’s Hill can provide new insights into the origins and evolution of Homo sapiens in Kalahari.”

Reference: “Innovative Homo sapiens behavior 105,000 years ago in wet kalahari” Jane Wilkins, Benjamin J. Shoville, Robin Pickering, Luke Glignick, Benjamin Collins, Kyle S. Brown, Jessica von der Maiden, Wendy Khumalo, Michael C. Meyer, Sekhaba Mape, Alexander F. Blackwood and Amy Hatton, March 31, 2021, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-021-03419-0