Numerous shell beads that were found in a Moroccan cave are the earliest examples of jewelry in the entire world. The beads, which were discovered by archaeologists close to the mouth of Bizmoune Cave which is approximately 10 miles inland from Essaouira, Morocco, date back to at least 142,000 years ago and are possibly as old as 150,000 years.
There have been other beads that were previously found at other locations around the northern and southern parts of Africa; however, they were estimated to have dated back to no later than 130,000 years ago. This means that the ones found near Bizmoune Cave are the oldest in Africa and the world. Furthermore, the beads that were found in North Africa have been identified with the Aterian people from the Middle Stone Age.
In addition to being the oldest evidence of jewelry, the beads also symbolized the earliest form of non-verbal human communication and revealed how the ancients evolved their socially interaction skills with one another as well as their cognitive abilities.
Steven L. Kuhn, who was part of the team of archaeologists who found the beads and is a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioural Sciences, went into further details, “They were probably part of the way people expressed their identity with their clothing.” “They’re the tip of the iceberg for that kind of human trait. They show that it was present even hundreds of thousands of years ago, and that humans were interested in communicating to bigger groups of people than their immediate friends and family.”
The team found a total of 33 beads that were created from sea snail shells. They each measured approximately half an inch in length with a hole at the center of each bead which suggests that they were put on a string or were hung from clothes.
“We don’t know what they meant, but they’re clearly symbolic objects that were deployed in a way that other people could see them,” Kuhn stated. Whatever their meaning was or how they were worn, they are certainly a very interesting discovery in regards to early jewelry making. A picture of some of the beads can be seen here and here.
The study was published in the journal Science Advances where it can be read in full.