Dawn of modern man


At first glance, the 41 perforated pea-sized shells found in a South African cave are merely ancient jewellery, albeit the oldest ever found. But to archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood, the 75,000-year-old beads represent symbolic thought. By wearing jeweller, the people living on the southern tip of Africa would have transmitted shared values, much like we do today. “The Blombos Cave beads present absolute evidence for perhaps the earliest storage of information outside the human brain,’ he explains.


They were originally located in layers of sand dating back to the Middle Stone Age, arranged in clusters of up to 17 beads of a similar size. Strong indications that they were used as jewelry come from wear-marks and the common position of holes. Traces of red ochre suggest that the beads, or the surfaces they had touched, were coated with pigment.


The shells are those of mollusc scavenger Nassarius kraussianus, which lives in estuaries. Since the nearest rivers to the cave are 20km away, Stone Age humans must have transported them to the cave. The fact they were grouped into sizes and perforated suggests they were deliberately fashioned into beads, possibly before being taken there.

1  evidence that the shells had been worn

2  where in the cave the beads were first found

3  the type of creature that occupied the shells

4  a reference to the current function of jewelry

5  how it is thought the shells reached the cave


1   B

2   B

3   C


5   C

Which words in the passage match the key words in the statements?

2  originally located

3  mollusc scavenger

4  much like we do today

5  transported them to the cave

Skip to toolbar