The art of communication has evolved thanks to the world of social networks, where everyone else is just a click away, however, things have not always been the same. Scientists have identified a unique object related to humans nearly 50,000 years ago: ostrich eggshell beads.
Researchers have always wondered when, how, and why different populations connected in the past. They found that between 50,000 and 33,000 years ago, people in eastern and southern Africa used nearly identical ostrich eggshell beads, suggesting a long-distance social network spanning more than 3,000 kilometers that connected people from two different regions.
The study published in the journal Nature says ostrich eggshell bead technology likely originated in East Africa and spread south to around 5,033,000 people through a regional network. This connection was severed around 33,000 years ago, with populations remaining isolated until herders entered southern Africa.
“The result is surprising, but the pattern is clear. Throughout the 50,000 years that we have examined, this is the only period in which the characteristics of pearls are the same,” said Yiming V. Wang, co- author of the article.
According to researchers, ostrich eggshell beads are ideal artifacts for understanding ancient social relationships. They are the world’s oldest fully-made ornaments, which means that instead of relying on an object’s natural size or shape, humans completely transformed seashells to produce beads.
“It’s like following a trail of breadcrumbs. The beads are clues, scattered in time and space, just waiting to be noticed,” said Jennifer M. Miller, lead author of the study in a press release. The two researchers have assembled the largest database ever. of Ostrich Eggshell Beads which included data from over 1,500 individual beads unearthed from 31 sites across southern and eastern Africa, spanning the last 50,000 years.
The new connection is the oldest social network ever identified and coincides with a particularly wet period in East Africa. The pearls surprisingly disappeared 33,000 years ago, which is attributed to a major shift in global climates as East Africa experienced a dramatic reduction in rainfall as the tropical rain belt shifted to the south. South.
“Through this combination of paleoenvironmental proxies, climate models, and archaeological data, we can see the link between climate change and cultural behavior,” Wang added. The data even provides new insight into the varying social strategies between eastern and southern Africa by documenting different trajectories of marble use over time.
“These tiny pearls have the power to reveal big stories about our past. We encourage other researchers to build on this database and continue to explore evidence of cultural connection in new areas,” concluded Miller.