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Scientists have just discovered the oldest known rock drawing in the world.
The drawing was found in Blombos Cave, South Africa, which has been the source of numerous artifacts from about 70,000 to 100,000 years ago. Created on a rock fragment, the drawing was composed with crosshatch strokes and was described to resemble a “hashtag.” Based on archaeologists’ findings, the 73,000-year-old drawing was sketched by Homo sapiens, the species to which all modern humans belong.
Researchers studied the artifact using electron microscopy, a procedure that makes observing small details easier, and Raman spectroscopy [spek-TROS-kuh-pee], a technique that helps identify the chemical composition of a sample. Through these methods, the researchers determined that the strokes were drawn with red ochre [OH-ker], a rock rich in iron. Furthermore, the researchers speculated that the drawing was part of a bigger and more complex picture, based on its stroke patterns.
For a long time, archaeologists believed that the Homo sapiens only began drawing symbols on rocks when these humans entered Europe about 40,000 years ago. The recent discovery is a sign that early humans had started doing this practice even before they migrated to Europe.
While the artifact from Blombos Cave is the oldest known drawing made on a rock, an earlier discovery has already shown evidence of early humans using tools to mark surfaces. In 2014, researchers found a zigzag line carved on a 400,000- to 500,000-year-old shell in Indonesia. They concluded that it was carved by an earlier human species called Homo erectus and is considered to be the oldest engraving ever discovered.