RABAT, Morocco — Perforated shells discovered in a limestone cave in eastern Morocco are the oldest adornments ever found and show humans used symbols in Africa 40,000 years before Europe, the kingdom’s government said.
The small oval Nassarius mollusc shells, some dyed with red ochre, were probably pierced to be strung into necklaces or bracelets 82,000 years ago.
“This classes the adornments in Pigeon’s Cave at Taforalt as older than those discovered previously in Algeria, South Africa and Palestine,” the Culture Ministry said in a statement.
The find represents “a big step in the understanding of cultural innovations and the role they played in human history”.
Morocco has yielded important prehistoric finds including one of the oldest known dinosaur skeletons but little is known of the humans that inhabited the region before Berber farmers settled over 2,000 years ago.
The shells were found and dated by a team of scientists from Morocco, Britain, France and Germany trying to find out how climate and landscape change affected human behavior between 130,000 and 13,000 years ago.
The work is part of a broader study into whether the Strait of Gibraltar dividing Morocco from Spain acted as a corridor or a barrier for early humans trying to move between Africa and Europe.
The shells are Nassarius gibbosulus.
Shell beads newly unearthed from four sites in Morocco confirm early humans were consistently wearing and potentially trading symbolic jewelry as early as 80,000 years ago: here.