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500,000-Year-Old Zig Zag’s Maybe Humanity’s First Abstract Art

Anthropologists announced on Wednesday that they have found, what they believe to be the world’s oldest piece of abstract art work. The art was discovered on a shell that is believed to be around 500,000 years old.


The basic geometrical shapes etched on the clam shell were most likely created by Homo erectus, an ancient ancestor of mankind that predated our species. Although the pattern of intersecting lines may appear to be extremely basic to our modern standards of art, this simple ‘doodle’ like creation may be the first example of humanities ability to facilitate abstract artwork.

Homo erectus was first refered to as the “Java Man” and discovered by the Dutch paleontologist, Eugene Dubois, in 1891. He, accompanied by a team of army personnel and convicts, uncovered a partial skull of a low-brow human like creature as well as a tooth and thigh bone. At first, he presumed this animal to be the highly sought after “missing link”, believed to be the animal that evolved from apes and later into man. Over the last century, the bones were re-evaluated and categorized as the first Homo erectus or “upright man”. Although the collective evidence is considered to be poor at best, it is believed that this far distant ancestor lived 1.9 million to 150,000 years ago.

A Leiden University biologist named Josephine Joordens and her scientific associates, were the first to report and notice the ‘zig zag’ markings on the shell,that was discovered in Indonesia over 100 years ago. The faint markings may have sat undiscovered for so long, due to how faint the appear on the shell, it is noted that the geometric shapes are only visible from certain angles.

Unlike other artifacts that have been discovered and are correlated with Homo erectus, the etchings on the shell appear to be intentional, where as on other shells or items, they appear more to be from everyday, wear and tear. These markings are noted to be remarkably similar to engravings on items that were found in South Africa, but the South Africa items are only dated to be around 100,000 years old.

The scientists believe the artist to be Homo erectus for several reasons, mostly because of the age of the shell and the location where it was found.

Many experts and scientists are baffled by the find, currently it was not believed that mankind, during that era of evolution, held the mental capacity to comprehend and manifest abstract art.

These findings were first published in the scientific journal Nature.



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