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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Oldest Sketch

Blomboschfontein Nature Reserve, South Africa

January/February 2019

Top Ten South Africa Blombos CaveTop Ten South Africa Decorated Stone FlakeThe world’s oldest known drawing has been identified on a small stone flake recovered in South Africa’s Blombos Cave. The tiny fragment measures less than two inches long and barely half an inch wide and features a crosshatch pattern of visible lines. A research team first used microscopic and chemical analysis to determine that the marks are composed of ochre pigment lying on the flake’s surface. They then attempted to replicate the pattern using pieces of ochre. Doing so required a firm hand and controlled motions, explains Christopher Henshilwood of the University of Bergen. This led his team to conclude that a human deliberately applied them with an ochre crayon around 73,000 years ago. “The design almost certainly had some meaning to the maker,” Henshilwood says. “It probably formed part of a common symbolic system understood by other people in their group.


The First Bakers
Shubayqa, Jordan
Oldest Sketch
Blomboschfontein Nature Reserve, South Africa
An Eccentric Artifact
Prêles, Switzerland
Bronze Age Plague
Samara, Russia
Early Americans
Florence, Texas
Epic Find
Olympia, Greece
Return to Pompeii
Pompeii, Italy
Mummy Workshop
Saqqara, Egypt
Hominin Hybrid
Denisova Cave, Russia
Ancient Shipwreck
Black Sea

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