October 18, 2007


I suppose God didn't much care for us for the first 159,000 years or so. But we seemed to do all right:

Researchers found three hallmarks of modern life at Pinnacle Point overlooking the Indian Ocean near South Africa's Mossel Bay: harvested and cooked seafood, reddish pigment from ground rocks, and early tiny blade technology. Scientific optical dating techniques show that these hallmarks were from 164,000 years ago, plus or minus 12,000 years.

"Together as a package this looks like the archaeological record of a much later time period," said study author Curtis Marean, professor of anthropology at the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University.

This means humans were eating seafood about 40,000 years earlier than previously thought. And this is the earliest record of humans eating something other than what they caught or gathered on the land, Marean said. Most of what Marean found were the remnants of brown mussels, but he also found black mussels, small saltwater clams, sea snails and even a barnacle that indicates whale blubber or skin was brought into the cave.

Marean figured the early people, probably women, had to trudge two to three miles to where the mussels, clams and snails were harvested and to bring them back to the cave. Then they put them over hot rocks to cook. When the food was done, the shells popped open in a process similar to modern-day mussel-steaming, but without the pot....

Marean also found 57 pieces of ground-up rock that would have been reddish- or pinkish-brown. That would be used for self-decoration and sending social signals to other people, much the way makeup is used now, he said.

In Love and Death, Woody Allen suggested that God, if he exists, is an underachiever. When one reads of "'modern' living, humans 164,000 years ago" who "put on primitive makeup and hit the seashore for steaming mussels," and calculate that salvation only became a concern of God some 5,000, 2,000 or 1,400 years ago -- well, Woody Allen seems fairly profound...

Posted by Ideofact at October 18, 2007 01:22 AM