Science and Nature

South African Cave Sheltered Human Ancestors 1.8 Million Years Ago

A crew of paleoanthropologists from the Hebrew College of Jerusalem, CNRS and the College of Toronto has examined artifacts and sediments came all over in Wonderwerk Cave, a 140-m-prolonged cave positioned within the japanese flanks of the Kuruman Hills, between the cities of Danielskuil and Kuruma, within the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.

Shaar et al. unveil the oldest evidence of human activity in Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa. Image credit: Michael Chazan.

Shaar et al. unveil the oldest evidence of human exercise in Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa. Represent credit ranking: Michael Chazan.

“We can now advise with self belief that our human ancestors had been making easy Oldowan stone tools inside Wonderwerk Cave 1.8 million years ago,” said Professor Ron Shaar, a researcher within the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew College of Jerusalem.

“The cave is irregular among outdated Oldowan websites, a machine-kind first came all over 2.6 million years ago in East Africa, precisely because it is miles a cave and no longer an open-air occurrence.”

Professor Shaar and colleagues analyzed a 2.5-m thick sedimentary layer in Wonderwerk Cave that contained stone tools, animal remains and fire remnants.

“We in moderation eradicated hundreds of small sediment samples from the cave walls and measured their magnetic signal,” Professor Shaar said.

Magnetization took place when clay particles settled on the prehistoric cave floor, thereby holding the route of the Earth’s magnetic field for the time being.

“Our lab analysis confirmed that among the samples had been magnetized to the south as a replacement of the north, which is the route of this day’s magnetic field,” Professor Shaar said.

“Since the particular timing of these magnetic reversals is globally recognized, it gave us clues to the antiquity of the overall sequence of layers within the cave.”

“We relied on a secondary relationship means to extra verify when the earliest other folks may maybe maybe bask in occupied the scheme,” said Professor Ari Matmon, moreover from the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew College of Jerusalem.

“Quartz particles in sand bask in a constructed-in geological clock that starts ticking when they enter a cave.”

“In our lab, we’re in a problem to measure the concentrations of particular isotopes in those particles and deduce how considerable time had passed since those grains of sand entered the cave.”

The researchers had been in a problem to title the shift from Oldowan tools — essentially engrossing flakes and cutting again tools — to early handaxes over a million years ago.

They had been moreover in a problem so a long way the deliberate use of fire by our prehistoric ancestors to 1 million years ago, in a layer deep inside Wonderwerk Cave.

The latter is an extremely vital because other examples of early fire use near from open-air websites where the that you just should to maybe presumably assume role of wildfires can’t be excluded. Moreover, the cave contained a elephantine array of fire remnants: burnt bone, sediment and tools as well to the presence of ash.

“The findings at Wonderwerk Cave are a truly considerable step towards working out the tempo of human evolution all over the African continent,” said Professor Michael Chazan from the Department of Anthropology at the College of Toronto and Dr. Liora Kolska Horwitz from the Nationwide Pure History Collections at the Hebrew College of Jerusalem.

“With a timescale firmly established for the cave, we are in a position to proceed discovering out the connection between human evolution and local weather change, and the evolution of our early human ancestors’ technique of life.”

The outcomes had been published within the journal Quaternary Science Opinions.


Ron Shaar et al. 2021. Magnetostratigraphy and cosmogenic relationship of Wonderwerk Cave: New constraints for the chronology of the South African Earlier Stone Age. Quaternary Science Opinions 259: 106907; doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2021.106907

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