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Colored Pigments and Complex Tools Suggest Humans Were Trading 100,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Believed


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What the heck are these? thought Rick Potts. The Smithsonian paleoanthropologist was looking at a small, round, charcoal-colored lump. The stubby rock was accompanied by 85 others, all excavated from the Olorgesailie Basin site in southern Kenya.


Over the past decade, the site had revealed a bevy of finds to Potts and his team of researchers from the Smithsonian and the National Museums of Kenya, including thousands of hominin-made tools, fossilized mammal remains and sediment samples spanning hundreds of thousands of years. But the lumps were a mystery.


Back at the lab, researchers analyzed them to find that they were black pigments: The oldest paleo-crayons ever discovered, dating back to around 300,000 years ago.


That was only the beginning of the intrigue. Having long studied this site and this period in human evolution, Potts knew that early humans generally sourced their food and materials locally. These “crayons,” however, were clearly imported. They’d formed in a briny lake, but the closest body of water that fit that description was some 18 miles away. That was much farther than most inhabitants likely would’ve traveled on a regular basis, given the uneven terrain. So what was going on?


The pigments, Potts and his co-authors now believe, were part of a prehistoric trade network—one that existed 100,000 years earlier than scientists previously thought.


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I'm quite sure that "surprises" like this will keep appearing with further progress of explorations of human origins. I guess evolved human beings are much older than those antropoids, "pithecus"and "ape-men" just until recently considered our direct-lined ancestors.

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