Brief History of Africa

The history of Africa has been systematically erased and what is known has been distorted. Our history of hundreds of thousands of years, actually millions of years, has been replaced by the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions’ version that make us only a footnote of world history.

Suppression and Demonizing of Africa’s Story

There has been a deliberate effort to hide or destroy our identity, history, accomplishments, origin, and traditions. Our accomplishments have been misappropriated and credited to Europeans. We have been told that we have no history and we are of no consequence in the world.

Here are some quotations from immensely powerful European and America scholars, educators, heroes and politicians about Africa and Africans:

Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914 – 2003), Oxford University stated:

“Perhaps in the future there will be some African History to teach. At the present there is none or very little. There’s only the history of Europeans in Africa. The rest is largely darkness like the history of pre-European and pre-Colombian America…”

Richard Burton (1821-1890 ), explorer and writer stated:

“The study of the negro is the study of man’s rudimentary mind. He would appear rather a degeneracy from the civilized man (Caucasian) than a savage rising to the first step were it not for his total incapacity for improvement.

John Burgess An American (August 26, 1844 – January 13, 1931) a scholar – Colombia University:

“A black skin means membership in a race of men which has never created a civilization of any kind. There is something natural in the subordination of an inferior race even to the point of enslavement of the inferior race…”

They only mention us in their history books as a ‘cursed people’ who inherited blackness from a cursed white man, Ham.

The following excerpt is from an Essay by the eminent Dr. John Henrik Clarke entitled “Why Africana History?” He draws on several sources to show the overt distortion of African history:

“History, I have often said, is a clock that people use to tell their political time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves on the map of human geography. History tells a people where they are and what they are. Most importantly, history tells a people where they still must go and what they still must be.

“There is no way to go directly to the history of African Americans without taking a broader view of African world history. In his book Tom-Tom, the writer, John W. Vandercook makes this meaningful statement:

“A race is like a man. Until it uses its own talents, takes pride in its own history, and loves its own memories, it can never fulfill itself completely”.



Africa has the longest history of all cultural groups on earth. It is the cradle of humanity. This fact has been established by science – the fossil record, Genetics (Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome), Archeology, Anthropology and history.

Without a doubt, Africa is the birthplace of humanity.

There are stories of human origin out there, but their validity cannot be established. They are mere old tales promoted and perpetuated without evidence. We must challenge them regardless of our emotional affinity and attachment to them.

Importance of Chronology – Without timeline we cannot understand the sequence of events that influenced development of human experience. History is nothing without chronology. We cannot understand causation, seeds of change of events that occurred in the past and the results of the changes on society.

To fully understand Africa’s history, we must look at all the available sources available not limit ourselves to history written by European missionaries and explorers. We have available to us anthropology, paleontology, genetic science, language science, cultural science etc. that dig deeper into our distant past.

The following articles on Blombos Cave artifacts found illustrate Africa’s long history in archeology for a period between :

Introduction to Blombos Cave and the Creativity of Early Modern Humans
Middle Stone Age Technological and Creative Innovation


  1. Kris Hirst

Archaeology Expert

  • M.A., Anthropology, University of Iowa
  • B.Ed., Illinois State University
  1. Kris Hirst is an archaeologist with 30 years of field experience. Her work has appeared in scholarly publications such as Archaeology Online and Science.

our editorial process

  1. Kris Hirst

Updated July 31, 2019

Blombos Cave (abbreviated in the scientific literature as BBC) contains one of the longest and richest sequences of early subsistence, and technological and cultural innovations of pressure-flaking of stone tools, non-functional engraving, shell bead production, and red ochre processing by early modern humans worldwide, from occupations dated to the Middle Stone Age (MSA), 74,000-100,000 years ago.

The rock shelter is located in a steep wave-cut calcrete cliff, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of Cape Town, South Africa. The cave is 34.5 meters (113 ft) above current sea level and 100 m (328 ft) from the Indian Ocean.


The site deposits include 80 centimeters (31 inches) of a Later Stone Age deposit, an archaeologically sterile layer of aeolian (windblown) dune sand, called the Hiatus, and about 1.4 m (4.5 ft) comprising four Middle Stone Age levels. As of 2016, excavations have included an area of about 40 sqm (430 sq ft).

Dates and thicknesses presented below are derived from Roberts et al. 2016:

  • Late Stone Age, 2,000-3000 years before the present (BP), ~80 cm in thickness
  • Hiatus ~68 ka (thousand years BP), a culturally sterile sand dune which sealed the lower MSA, 5-10 cm
  • M1 – Middle Stone Age Still Bay (64-73 ka, Marine Isotope Stage 5a/4), 6 strata, ~20 cm
  • M2 Upper – Middle Stone Age Still Bay (77-82 ka, MIS 5b/a), 4 strata, ~20 cm
  • M2 Lower – Middle Stone Age, 85-81 ka (MIS 5b), 5 strata, ~25 cm
  • M3 – Middle Stone Age (94-101 ka, MIS 5c), 10 strata, 75 cm

The Late Stone Age level contains a dense series of occupations within the rock shelter, characterized by ochre, bone tools, bone beads, shell pendants, and pottery.

Middle Stone Age Occupations

Together, the M1 and upper M2 levels at Blombos have been designated Still Bay phase, and paleoenvironmental reconstruction suggests the climate during this period fluctuated between arid and humid. Within an area of approximately 19 sqm have been found 65 hearths and 45 ash piles.

The stone tools from the Still Bay occupations are primarily made from locally available silcrete, but also include quartzite and quartz. Nearly 400 Still Bay type points have been recovered so far, and about half of them were heat-treated and finished using sophisticated pressure flaking techniques: prior to the discoveries at BBC, pressure flaking was thought to have been invented in Upper Paleolithic Europe, only 20,000 years ago. Over 40 bone tools have been recovered, most of which are awls. A few were polished and may have been hafted as projectile points.

Symbolic Behavior

More than 2,000 pieces of ochre have been found so far from the Still Bay occupations, including two with deliberately engraved cross-hatched patterns from M1, and six more from M2 upper. A bone fragment was also marked, with 8 parallel lines.

Over 65 beads have been discovered in the MSA levels, all of which are tick shells, Nassarius kraussianus, and most of them have been carefully perforated, polished, and in some cases deliberately heat-treated to a dark-grey to black coloration (d’Errico and colleagues 2015).

Vanhaeren et al. conducted experimental reproduction and close analysis of the usewear on the tick shell beads from M1. They determined that a cluster of 24 perforated shells were probably strung together in a ~10 cm long string in such a way so that they hung in alternate positions, creating a visual pattern of symmetrical pairs. A second later pattern was also identified, apparently created by knotting cords together to create floating pairs of dorsally joined shells. Each of these patterns of stringing was repeated on at least five different beadwork pieces.

A discussion of the significance of shell beads may be found in Shell Beads and Behavioral Modernity.

Before Still Bay

The M2 level at BBC was a period of fewer and shorter occupations than either earlier or later periods. The cave contained a few basin hearths and one very large hearth at this point; the artifact assemblage includes small quantities of stone tools, consisting of blades, flakes, and cores of silcrete, quartz, and quartzite. Faunal material is limited to shellfish and ostrich eggshell.

In sharp contrast, occupation debris within the M3 level at BBC is far denser. So far, M3 has produced abundant lithics but no bone tools; lots of modified ochre, including eight slabs with deliberate engravings in cross-hatching, y-shaped or crenulated designs. Stone tools include objects made of exotic fine-grained materials.

The animal bone assemblage from M3 includes mostly small to medium mammals such as rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis), Cape dune mole-rat (Bathyergus suillus), steenbok/grysbok (Raphicerus sp), Cape fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus), and eland (Tragelaphus oryx). Larger animals are also represented in fewer numbers, including equids, hippopotami (Hippopotamus amphibius), rhinoceros (Rhinocerotidae), elephant (Loxodonta africana), and giant buffalo (Sycerus antiquus).

Paint Pots in M3

Within the M3 levels were also found two abalone (Haliotis midae) shells located within 6 cm of one another, and interpreted as an ochre processing workshop. The cavity of each shell was filled with a red compound of ochre, crushed bone, charcoal, and tiny stone flakes. A round flat stone with use-wear marks along the edge and face was likely used to crush and mix the pigment; it fits snugly into one of the shells and was stained with red ochre and encrusted with fragments of crushed bone. One of the shells had long scratches in its nacreous surface.

Although no large painted objects or walls have been found in BBC, the resulting ochre pigment was likely used as paint to decorate a surface, object or person: while cave paintings are not known from Howiesons Poort/Still Bay occupations, ochre-painted objects have been identified within several sites of the Middle Stone Age along the South African coast.

Excavations have been conducted at Blombos by Christopher S. Henshilwood and colleagues since 1991 and have continued intermittently ever since.


Blombos Cave

Blombos Cave, South Africa
Photo: http://www.asu.edu/clas/shesc/projects/cape/CFS_Program.htm

Blombos Cave is some 100 metres from the coast and 35 metres above sea level. Interior cave deposits, including those in recesses, cover more than 80 square metres. About 20 square metres of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) has been excavated to a depth of about 2 metres below the original surface. Excavations carried out since 1991 at Blombos Cave provide snapshots of life in the African MSA in the southern Cape, South Africa. Three phases of MSA occupation have been identified and named M1, M2 and M3. Dating by the optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and thermoluminescence (TL) methods has provided occupation dates for each phase: these are about 73.000 BP for the M1 phase, about 80,000 BP for the M2 phase, and between 100,000 and 140,000 BP for the M3 phase. The evidence indicates periods of relatively brief occupation separated by long periods of non-occupation, including a separation between occupation during the Late Stone Age (LSA) and the Middle Stone Age. Bone tools, marine shell beads, and engraved ochre were found in the M1 phase, bone tools in the Upper M2 phase, and considerable quantities of ochre and associated ochre working tools in the M3 phase.

Text above adapted from Wikipedia

Location of Blombos Cave archaeological site, South Africa

Photo: Vincent Mourre
Permission: public domain


Oldest ‘Art Studio’ Found; Evidence of Early Chemistry

Abalone shells used to mix paint found in South African cave, new study says.

Blombos Cave shell.
This abalone shell was found with an ochre-covered grindstone on its lip.

Photo Credit: Science/AAAS
Photo Published:


Ker Than
for National Geographic News
Published October 13, 2011

A coating of bright red powder on the insides of a pair of 100 000-year-old abalone shells is evidence of the oldest known art workshop, a new study says.

The powder was found inside two shells in Blombos Cave near Still Bay, South Africa (map). The substance is the dried remains of a primitive form of paint made by combining colourful clay called ochre, crushed seal bones, charcoal, quartzite chips, and a liquid, such as water.

‘A round [stone] covered the opening of one of the shells, and underneath it was absolutely bright red,’ said study leader Christopher Henshilwood, an archaeologist at the University of Bergen in Norway and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.

In addition to the shells, the team also found grindstones, hammerstones, the remains of a small fire pit, and animal bones that were used to transfer small amounts of the paint.

Blombos Cave has been inhabited off and on by humans for at least 140 000 years, but the ochre-paint studio seems to have been active about 100,000 years ago. Prior to the new discovery, the earliest known ochre-making workshop was 60 000 years old, Henshilwood said.

The discovery is also proof that early humans were capable of long-term planning and had at least a rudimentary knowledge of chemistry, according to the study authors.

‘They seemed to know that seal bone is really rich in oil and fat, which is a critical component in making a paint-like substance,’ Henshilwood said.

‘They also knew to add charcoal to the mixture to bind and stabilise it, and a little bit of fluid, which could have been water or seawater or urine.’

While relatively few ingredients were used in the ancient paint, each item had to be individually prepared before everything could be combined inside the shells. For example, the ochre pieces had to be crushed and ground into a powder, the bones had to be heated to release their oils and then crushed, and wood had to be burned to create charcoal.

‘The mixture was very gently stirred, and you can see the traces of the stirring [done by fingers] on the bottom surface of the abalone shell,’ Henshilwood said.

It’s not clear what the ochre paint was later used for, but Henshilwood said it’s easy to imagine early humans using the substance to decorate their bodies or cave walls.

The final product would have been a bright-red paint – due to to the iron oxide in the particular ochre used – was and would have been not too thick or too watery.

There is even evidence that the early artists purposely adjusted the colour of their pigments.

‘In one [of the shells], there was a tiny piece of a yellow mineral called goethite, which may have been added to change the colour slightly,’ Henshilwood said.

Dr Christopher Henshilwood excavating the south section of Blombos Cave.
Photo: C. Henshilwood and M. Haaland

Engraved ochre from Blombos Cave, South Africa.

Photo: © Stephen Alvarez, Alvarez Photography
Source: http://print.alvarezphotography.com/

Engraved ochre from Blombos Cave, South Africa.

Photo: © Chris Henshilwood
Source: https://earth-pages.co.uk/2014/12/08/art-from-half-a-million-years-ago/blombos-ochre/

Engraved ochre from Blombos Cave, South Africa. This is of the inverted artefact, showing the ‘underneath’ side.

Photo: © Chris Henshilwood
Source: https://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/article133442959/Das-Geheimnis-der-weissen-Haende.html

Blombos Cave ochre and artefacts.

Photo: Henning, © Chris Henshilwood

Permission: CC-BY-2.5; Released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

The world’s oldest example of abstract art, dating back more than 70,000 years, has been found in a cave in South Africa.

Scientists say the discovery shows that modern ways of thinking developed far earlier than we think. The abstract art was found on two pieces of ochre in a cave on the southern Cape shore of the Indian Ocean. Previously, the earliest evidence of abstract art came mainly in France from the Eurasian Palaeolithic period less than 35,000 years ago.

Dr Christopher Henshilwood, from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, says: ‘They may have been constructed with symbolic intent, the meaning of which is now unknown.

Dr Christopher Henshilwood believes the items are significant: ‘The engraving itself is quite a complex geometric pattern. There is a system to the patterns. We don’t know what they mean, but they are symbols that I think could have been interpreted by those people as having meaning that would have been understood by others.’ The engraved ochre pieces were recovered from Middle Stone Age layers at Blombos Cave, 290 kilometres (180 miles) east of Cape Town, and are at least 70,000 years old. Dr Henshilwood says more than 8,000 other pieces of ochre were found in the cave, many of which had been rubbed smooth as if to make pigment powder.

Ochre, a form of iron ore, is frequently found in Stone Age deposits less than 100,000 years old. It may have been used as a body or decorative paint.

The researchers believe that the ochre was first scraped and ground to create flat surfaces. It was then marked with cross hatches and lines to create a complex motif. The find pushes back by some 35,000 years the earliest time when biologically modern humans were known to have developed modern behaviour. ‘The theory up until now has been that modern human behaviour started only around 40,000 years ago,’ says Dr Henshilwood.‘The whole of South Africa was occupied by a biologically modern people who had evolved about 150,000 years ago.’

The research team excavate in Blombos Cave ‘There is no doubt that the people in southern Africa were behaviourally modern 70,000 years ago.’ Scientists believe that these finds demonstrate that ochre use in the Middle Stone Age was not exclusively utilitarian and, arguably, the transmission and sharing of the meaning of the engravings relied on fully syntactical language. While the markings are suggestive, not all scientists are prepared to classify them as a form of artistic expression and abstract thought. Steve Kuhn of the University of Arizona says the finding is the result of some ‘very good work by some very serious researchers’. But he adds: ‘I’d be more comfortable if there were more of these engraved stones; if these alleged symbols were found many times in different places. It is possible they were just doodlings that really didn’t mean anything.’

Blombos Cave is 290 kilometres (180 miles) east of Cape Town
The research was funded by the US National Science Foundation and is published in the journal Science.

Text above: http://originalrockart.wordpress.com/news/

More than a thousand fish bones, many from large fish, marine shells, seals and dolphins, attest to extensive exploitation of aquatic resources and suggest exploitation patterns not dissimilar to those of LSA (Later Stone Age) people in this region. Nine human teeth, mostly deciduous, have been recovered from the MSA levels, but no other human skeletal material. The teeth probably derive from fairly gracile individuals and are similar to samples recovered at Klasies River Caves and De Kelders.

Photo: © Chris Henshilwood
Permission: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
Text: Adapted from Wikipedia.

Nassarius kraussianus shell beads from the 75,000 year old levels at Blombos Cave.

a) aperture made with bone tool
b) flattened facets produced by use wear, probably by rubbing against other beads, string or gut
c) ochre traces inside shell, possibly transferred from body of wearer
d) shell beads external view

Photo: Chris Henshilwood & Francesco d’Errico, © Chris Henshilwood
Permission: CC-BY-2.5; Released under the GNU Free Documentation License; CC-BY-SA-3.0-MIGRATED.
Text: Adapted from Wikipedia.

Bifacial silcrete point from M1 phase of Blombos Cave. Scale bar = 5 cm

Photo: Vincent Mourre / Inrap
Permission: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Text: Adapted from Wikipedia.

Stratigraphy and dates of the west section of Blombos Cave

Photo: Chris Henshilwood

Permission: This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Chenshilwood at the wikipedia project.

Deposit layers at Blombos Cave

Date 2 March 2005

Photo: © Kari Janne Stenersen

Still Bay points (n = 371) recovered from the 1993 to 2004 excavations at Blombos Cave.

(Typical Still Bay points are bifacial foliate points – Don ) Drawings of Still Bay points from Blombos; the production sequence, which includes phases 1 to 4, is described in the text. Catalogue numbers preceded by a P or a T are those assigned by MS; numbers with PV or PVN have been assigned by PV. Three pieces, kept in a showcase at the Iziko Museum, are listed as Museum 1–3.

(a) Double-pointed phase 4 point, fine silcrete (P 71, layer CD); the point was modified after phase 3 by two notches near the tip by hard hammer percussion.

(b) Phase 3 broken point of fine silcrete (P 68, layer CD); the manufacturing break is a lateral snap with a lip.

(c) Phase 3 point with a narrow straight base of coarse silcrete (PVN 7, layer CD).

(d) Lateral-distal fragment of an almost finished point pf coarse silcrete with a perverse fracture; this knapping accident occurred during phase 3 (P 67, layer CD).

(e) Phase 2a point of fine silcrete, with areas of cortex in the center part (P 70, layer CD). It was abandoned probably because many flake scars are too deep and irregular to be corrected.

(f) Phase 3 of fine silcrete (P 42, layer CB), the break is an oblique lateral snap with a curved profile. Scale bars ¼ 1 cm.

Photo: Villa et al. (2009)
Drawings: Marycel Albertyn.

stratigraphy of Blombos Cave.

Photo: Villa et al. (2009)

Different kinds of cortex on silcrete of Still Bay points. (1–2) Rolled cortex. (3) Fresh cortex. (4–5) Weathered, altered cortex on silcrete. Scale bars = 1 cm.

Photo: Villa et al. (2009)

Frequencies of raw materials for Still Bay points and point fragments.


Raw material












Cryptocrystalline silica






(Note the poor material the knappers had to work with. Mostly silcrete, a poor, coarsely grained material which it is difficult to get a really good edge on, and difficult to retouch, quartzite which is often a poor material, some quartz which would have been very welcome, and one example of a material similar to flint. They did it tough. Despite this handicap, they created some sophisticated and well made points. The nearest source of the silcrete is ~30 kilometres away – Don )

Blombos points in various phases of manufacture, all of silcrete except no.2, of quartzite. (1–2) Phase 1, P 29, rolled cortex on the right side; PVN 95, rolled cortex on the left side. (3–5) Phase 2a, P 45, P 53 and P 70. (6–7) Phase 2b, P 41 and PVN 64. (8–10) Phase 3, PVN 7, P 54 and Museum 3.

Scale bars = 1 cm.

The high incidence of Still Bay points at Blombos and their fine flaking have been considered as possible evidence of craft specialisation and, by extension, trading (Deacon & Deacon 1999).

The implication is that during the M1 phase Blombos was a specialised workshop where points were made to be brought to other sites outside the group range for reciprocal trading. Photo: Villa et al. (2009)


  • Deacon H., Deacon J., 1999: Human Beginnings in South Africa – Uncovering the Secrets of the Stone Age. David Philip Publishers, Cape Town.

How Africa Became the Cradle of Humankind A fossil discovery in 1924 revolutionized the search for human ancestors, leading scientists to Africa

By Erin Wayman

October 17, 2011

If you know anything about human evolution, it’s probably that humans arose in Africa. But you may not know how scientists came to that conclusion. It’s one of my favorite stories in the history of paleoanthropology—one that involves an anatomist you’ve probably never heard of and an infant who was attacked by an eagle and dropped into a hole almost three million years ago.

The idea that humans evolved in Africa can be traced to Charles Darwin. In his 1871 book The Descent of Man, Darwin speculated that it was “probable” that Africa was the cradle of humans because our two closest living relatives—chimpanzees and gorillas—live there. However, he also noted, a large, extinct ape once lived in Europe millions of years ago, leaving plenty of time for our earliest ancestors to migrate to Africa. So, he concluded, “it’s useless to speculate on the subject.”

By the early 20th century, the world’s leading anatomists thought they knew the answer: Humans evolved somewhere in Europe or Asia. By then, Neanderthals had been found in Europe; Java Man (now known as Homo erectus) had been discovered in Indonesia and Piltdown Man (later exposed as a hoax) had been unearthed in England. Although these ancient beings were primitive, they clearly resembled modern humans.

In 1924, a fossil discovery in South Africa challenged this view of a Eurasian homeland and revolutionized the study of human evolution.

Raymond Dart, an Australian-born anatomist working at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, was interested in fossils. In the fall of 1924, as Dart was preparing to attend a wedding, two boxes of rocks blasted from a limestone quarry near the town of Taung were delivered at his house. Over the objections of his wife, Dart, dressed in formal wear, dug into one of the boxes. He found something amazing: the fossilized mold of a brain.

This was a special brain. The shape and folds on the brain’s surface implied it belonged to some kind of human—perhaps an ancient human ancestor, Dart thought. Further digging led Dart to another rock that the brain fit perfectly into. After months of careful chipping, Dart freed the brain’s corresponding face and lower jaw on December 23. “I doubt if there was any parent prouder of his offspring,” Dart later wrote in his 1959 book Adventures with the Missing Link, “on that Christmas of 1924.”

It was probably the best Christmas present a paleoanthropologist could ever receive. The creature’s baby teeth revealed that it was a child (probably 3 or 4 years old, scientists now think). Other features of the so-called Taung Child confirmed Dart’s suspicion that he was handling a human ancestor. Although the being looked apish in many ways, the face lacked a pronounced muzzle as seen in chimps and gorillas. And the placement of the hole through which the spinal cord exits the bottom of the skull—the foramen magnum—suggested the Taung Child had an erect posture and walked upright on two legs (animals that travel on four legs, such as chimps and gorillas, have a foramen magnum more toward the back of the skull).

Dart wasted no time in reporting his results, announcing in early February 1925, in the journal Nature (PDF), that he had found “an extinct race of apes intermediate between living anthropoids and man.” He named it Australopithecus africanus (“Southern Ape of Africa”).

Australopithecus africanus did not receive a warm welcome from experts in the field. In the minds of most academics, there was a lot to criticize. Many derided Dart for rushing to publication, and media hoopla surrounding the announcement—before experts had a chance to take a close look at the finding—irked more established anatomists. Researchers even ridiculed Dart for mixing Latin and Greek when inventing the name “Australopithecus.”

The biggest problems were scientific. No one had any idea what the Taung Child would have looked like as an adult. Furthermore, in addition to being from the wrong continent, the fossil was too ape-like to fit the early-20th-century view of human evolution. At the time, fossils like Piltdown Man indicated the earliest humans evolved big brains before other aspects of modern human physiology emerged—even before the ability to walk upright. Thus, experts dismissed the Taung fossil as just an old ape.

But at least one person thought Dart was right. Paleontologist Robert Broom took up Dart’s cause. While investigating several limestone caves in South Africa during the 1930s and 1940s, Broom discovered numerous fossils of adult “ape-men” specimens that looked similar to Dart’s Taung Child. The mounting evidence—plus the uncovering of the Piltdown Hoax in the late 1940s and early 1950s—convinced even the most ardent skeptics that australopithecines belonged in the human family, and that Africa was the birthplace of humans. The work dramatically altered the trajectory of human evolution studies, changing where people looked for human fossils and what they expected to find.

Not all of Dart’s ideas have stood the test of time, however. As fossils of australopithecines were uncovered in South African caves, Dart noticed they were always found in association with animal parts—particularly the teeth, jaws and horns of hoofed animals. Dart believed these were the remains of an “osteodontokeratic” (bone, tooth and horn) culture, in which early humans used these broken bits as tools for warfare and hunting. Scientists later realized that predators such as leopards had accumulated the heaps of bones. In fact, holes on the Taung Child reveal it was the victim of a hungry eagle that dropped part of its meal into the entrance of the cave where the fossil was eventually found.

I never get tired of the story of Raymond Dart, in part because the Taung Child is kind of an adorable fossil. But mostly it’s because Dart’s work is a great reminder that nothing in human evolution is written in stone; you have to keep an open mind.


There were human beings in Africa 150,000 years who left a memory of themselves in artwork in the caves of Blombos.

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