Discovery News is reporting that an artifact found in South Africa may be the oldest human engraving ever discovered. This artifact is described in an upcoming article to appear in the April issue of Journal of Archaeology.
The authors of the article, Riaan Rifkin, Francesco d’Errico, Renata Garcia Moreno examined a piece of pebble found in the Klasies River Cave, in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.
They conclude that the scratchings on the piece of ochre pebble were human-made and represent some attempt to convey meaning or depict something recognizable to others.
I've dabbled some in the interpretation of ancient writings and inscriptions. My theory on the Tartaria Tablets is that they encode the counting of probable commodities.
Since I'm now a Paleo Diet enthusiast, I'm thrilled that a symbolic inscription was produced when humans were still living primarily off the animals that lived off the land.
If I had to guess, I'm betting that this pebble, which was part of a larger rock and presumably a larger inscription, was some type of a map. The two distinct parallel lines on the left side of the pebble are a river. The circular pits in the top center could be water pools or rock formations. Groups of hunters probably took crude maps of their locale with them on long range hunting trips. If the teams split up for periods of time, their maps allowed them to converge on a commonly agreed point later. And it goes without saying that such intensive planning implies an already advanced system of language.
I hope that this find is the tip of the iceberg and we yet see artifacts that show us yet more details on the lives of our earliest ancestors.