Earliest evidence of lasting "modern" behaviour at 44kya, Earliest use of Beeswax & Ricin!

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posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 08:41 AM
i came across this news this weekend, which is almost a year old but did not find posted on ATS via search..in this case, "modern behaviour" means something that can be compared to that which is in existence today, specifically modern hunter-gatherers such as the San bush folk... anyone coming here expecting advanced ancient cultures with flying chariots, vibro drills and so forth may want to look away now.. though, if you stick around and read the links it may benefit your world view

Recent archaeological discoveries have revealed that pigment use,
beads, engravings, and sophisticated stone and bone tools were
already present in southern Africa 75,000 y ago. Many of these
artifacts disappeared by 60,000 y ago, suggesting that modern
behavior appeared in the past and was subsequently lost before
becoming firmly established.

Now an archaeological team in South Africa have discoved artifacts in a cave in KwaZulu-Natal, that establishes the earliest yet date for what is widely recognised as modern behaviour (via a "cultural suite" of artifacts, ie: a collection of innovations making a "full-house") in prehistoric people at approximately 44kya which pushes the bounds of cultural modernity in africa back from 20kya.

“The dating and analysis of archaeological material discovered at Border Cave in South Africa, has allowed us to demonstrate that many elements of material culture that characterise the lifestyle of San hunter-gatherers in southern Africa, were part of the culture and technology of the inhabitants of this site 44,000 years ago,”

so here we have evidence of a way of life who's key characteristics of technology and material culture can be traced back to a culture some 44 thousand years ago.. the same cave was in use for many thousands of years and includes finds from around about 30kya and 20kya showing that it endured up untill the previously earliest recognised evidence.

The artifacts revealed uses and practices very similar to that of modern San applications. Some of them:
•Digging sticks weighted with perforated stones, dated to about 44,000 years ago;
•A wooden stick decorated with incisions, used to hold and carry a poison containing ricinoleic acid found in castor beans;
•Dated to about 40,000 years ago, a lump of beeswax, mixed with the resin of toxic Euphorbia, and possibly egg, wrapped in vegetal fibres made from the inner bark of a woody plant. Like the modern San equivalent, it was likely used for hafting arrowheads or tools;
•Warthog tusks shaped into awls and possibly spear heads; and
•Small pieces of stone for hunting weapons, confirmed by the discovery of resin residue still adhering to some of the tools, identified as a suberin (waxy substance) produced from the sap of Podocarpus (yellowwood) trees.

and a pic of some of the artifacts...

Organic Artefacts from Border Cave

a) Wooden digging stick made from Flueggea virosa and dated 40,986 - 38,986 cal BP,

b) Wooden poison applicator made from Flueggea virosa dated to 24,564 - 23,941 cal BP and preserving a residue containing poisonous ricinoleic acid found in castor beans,

c) Bone arrow point decorated with a spiral incision filled with red pigment,

d) Bone object with four sets of notches, each made by a different tool, and probably used for notational purposes,

e) Lump of beeswax containing Euphorbia tirucalli resin and possibly egg, bound with vegetal twine and dated 41,167 - 39,194 cal BP,

f) Ostrich eggshell beads dated 44,856 - 41,010 cal BP and marine shell beads used as personal ornaments. Scale bars = 1 cm.

The beeswax and resin/egg mix is a hafting compound, ie a glue and filler for the affixing of points to shafts. i have also seen a thread where similar compounds have been tried by primitive skills enthusiasts and were found to be effective, but inferior to recipes based on pine-pitch and birch-bark tar.. the Euphorbia element was possibly useless as a poison hence the assumption that it is for hafting. it was most likely bound in the vegetable material as the above experiments showed that it became runny easily when exposed to the heat of prolonged sunlight. The bound compound was possibly for mobile use such as running repairs to weaponry (the binding serving as a container perhaps, maybe even impregnating the binding producing a prehistoric sticky-tape)and the example below is unbound (and vulnerable to heat and light so not suitable for carrying on hunting trips etc) and may well have been soley for use in the shade of the cave while prepping gear for hunting.

This is also the earliest known human use of beeswax

and a close up of some poison and glue applicators which particularly fascinated me

this is a fascinating piece of ancient hunting tech, a stick with grooves around it, that would keep the two different materials in place.
the darker material is the poison, containing Ricinoleic Acid from Castor Beans... yes they used a form of Ricin in hunting and i would be fascinated to hear from members with a better knowledge of toxins about this, but i for one am most impressed, and a little bit scared by this!
the yellowish material is the hafting compound, mentioned above.

News Source
In Depth Report

Pretty fascinating all-round if you ask me and it doubles the age of the cultural suite of advanced tools, hafting techniques using recipes of combined ingredients and their storage, manufacture of decorative jewellery and pigments, adapted digging sticks using weights and the use and storage of poisons for hunting.

this also shows the intelligence and adaptability of our ancestors in antiquity, with ingenious tools and use of natural materials and poisons.

Besides this, it shows that some stone-age cultures developed new technological innovations, used these for thousands of years and then as their cultures died off, their new tech went to the grave with them and awaited other folk to make the same innovations.

not quite the lost and rediscovered ancient tech that many readers here await proof of! sorry about that, but this is fascinating, and quite real. any thoughts ats?
edit on 29-4-2013 by skalla because: clarity
edit on 29-4-2013 by skalla because: title too long
edit on 29-4-2013 by skalla because: typo

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 09:11 AM
I think Ricin and Ricinoleic acid are two entirely different agents here, Ricin being a deadly protein while the latter appears to act as an analgesic, despite both being obtained from the same plant seed.

Perhaps used in medicine, as opposed to being a toxin for hunting, given that ricin acts slowly over a number of days to cause a slow, painful death where you basically bleed out from the inside.

Think castor oil, which is also derived from the same plant.

But regardless, interesting find!!

edit on 29-4-2013 by winofiend because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 09:23 AM
Hi Skalla,

Well done for this find, most interesting indeed.

Taking into consideration your indepth knwledge as our resident, spoon and tool maker i have a question for you if you would be so kind as to help?

Below are a couple of photos of what i think are tools that were once used to scrape animal skins, these "tools" were found in the field in front of my house and it is quite commen that when my pig poo spraying farmer neighbour turns the earth that these are discovered. I also have a polished axe head in perfect condition, can't take a pic right now as it is on display at my in-laws wine tasting cellar.

Am i correct in thinking that these are scraping tools?

Pic 1, back of tool :

Pic 2, otherside of tool (with pen to show size) :

Pic 3, side of tool :

Pic 4, Fits perfectly into the hand :

The pics below are of two smaller "tools" with views from the back and front :

Kindest respects

edit on 29-4-2013 by Rodinus because: Pic added
edit on 29-4-2013 by Rodinus because: Oh deary me, it's that time of the day again and i need to have a IV of extremely strong Arabic coffee as am coming up with my usual heap of crap spelling mistakes!

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 09:42 AM
reply to post by winofiend

many thanks for your perspective.. i've subsequently had a little look into it (obviously i would not include ricin in the title to attract readers, *cough*) and the only toxic info i could find in a brief search was that it would be an irritant - hardly an aid to bringing down game it would seem.
however your mention of it's analgesic properties may indicate a different use, and it apparently also has anti-inflammatory qualities. perhaps it did have a medical use?

ETA: excerpt re the "poison" for anyone with a better knowledge of chemistry/toxicology than me, which is no doubt most of you..

Poison Applicator. A thin wooden stick in four pieces was found in
layer 1BS Lower B-C (Fig. 2, 26; and Table 1). Together, they
measure 32 cm. The original object was longer, as they do not
refit. After removal of the bark, the stick was entirely covered
with perpendicular incisions made by a sharp cutting edge. As
with the digging stick, the wood is identified as most likely
F. virosa (SI Appendix, Results and Fig. S19). Efforts to corroborate
the taxonomic identification by Py(HMDS)–gas chromatography/
mass spectrometry were inconclusive (SI Appendix,
Results, Fig. S20, and Table S6). Microscopic analysis revealed
the presence of a dark orange residue at the end and, to a lesser
extent, on the body of one piece (SI Appendix, Results and Fig.
S21). Gas chromatography of the residue (Fig. 2, 27; and SI
Appendix, Results and Table S7) shows the presence of monocarboxylic
and dicarboxylic acids (lipid material). The occurrence
of both cis and trans isomers of unsaturated carboxylic acids
suggests that the material was heated, and the simultaneous
presence of even- and odd-chain-length hydrocarbons points to
the presence of cuticular wax (49). Ricinoleic and ricinelaidic
acids are present. Ricinoleic acid is found in mature castor beans
(Ricinus communis L., Euphorbiaceae), a species common in this
part of Africa. The protein ricin in castor beans is known to be
among the most dangerous natural poisons (50). The incised
stick may be a broken arrow shaft still retaining poison at one
end. However, for aerodynamic reasons, arrow shafts are typically
straight and smooth.

reply to post by Rodinus

there are certainly other users here who could offer an informed opinion, but i would suggest that you are right. i dont see the wear i would attribute to their use on wood or bone for example and the dimensions of the edges are not really especially formed for sharpness in cutting.. i cant see a "sheen" or polish that would give more info on use but that is sometimes only noticable on closer inspection. many stone tools are multi purpose though, eg for skinning, butchering and scraping. beaut finds though... and you found a polished axe

beyond awesome!
edit on 29-4-2013 by skalla because: i always mis-spell apparently.
edit on 29-4-2013 by skalla because: (no reason given)
edit on 29-4-2013 by skalla because: typo, ex text
edit on 29-4-2013 by skalla because: clarity.. must not watch old war movies while posting

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 09:55 AM
Thanks Skalla,

Yep, a great looking polished axe, so when i next go to the out-laws i will take a couple of pics and post.

In front of my house we have a large field and at the end of the field a ravine (in my pig poo thread there is a picture of the field... and the trees that you see on the left are actually in that ravine).

Those tools were found near the ravine and something tells me that if i go into the ravine and have a good dig around i could come up with more interesting stuff, especially as it was once part of a very large stream, but i guess i am going to have to wait until winter now as the nettles and thorns are back big style!

Kindest respects

edit on 29-4-2013 by Rodinus because: The coffee is not working!

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 10:38 AM
i have dug a little further on the idea that the Ricinoleic Acid was used as a poison and it seems very doubtful - a leap by the investigating team that has spread via various news agencies - and now myself... i'd hate to perpetuate disinof as it spreads like wildfire and must thank winofiend for alerting me to it's uselessness for this purpose. i found this on the subject, a full read contains a fascinating perspective on the spread of misinformation among news agencies.

Let’s look at ricinoleic acid. It systematic name is 12-hydroxy-9-cis-octadecenoic acid. (See this blog entry about the naming of chemical found in plants) It is a fatty acid found in Ricinus communis, castor oil plant, and Claviceps purpurea, ergot fungus. It is present in castor oil. Castor oil is, of course, non-toxic at normal levels. Rats fed castor oil as 10% of their total diet showed no signs of poisoning

New Scientist reported the story by concentrating on what it tells us about evolution. There is no mention of poison or ricinoleic acid

another link..be warned as animal testing is involved which may distress some readers
International Journal of Toxicololgy (Abstract)

so it's highly doubtful that this is a poison and it's properties seemingly point more towards medicine... interestingly the other plant compound that contains Euphorbia resin, beeswax and possibly egg could also have both poisonous and medicinal properties:

Resins can be exploited as adhesives, but triterpenoids
are also used in high concentrations as poisons and in lower
concentrations medicinally. Euphorbia ingens (naboom or giant
euphorbia) and E. tirucalli (rubber-hedge euphorbia or Manyara),
widely distributed in Africa, have particularly poisonous latex and
seeds. Although very poisonous and used as an insecticide or to kill
fish, E. ingens is also used medicinally, but it can be fatal

and at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...

The largest genus of family Euphorbiaceae is Euphorbia with about 1600 species. It is characterized by the presence of white milky latex which is more or less toxic. Latices of E. ingens, E. mey, E. tirucalli, and E. triangularis are possible sources of rubber.[3] This group of plants has been a subject of intense phytochemical examination and isolated compounds which include:- flavanoids, triterpenoids, alkanes, amino acids, and alkaloids.[1] E. ipecacuanha is known as wild ipecac; E. antiquorum is known as Tridhara; E. lathyrus is known as caper spurge; and E. thymifolia is known as Laghududhika.[2]

There are many other species of Euphorbia which are used in traditional medicines. All species of Euphorbia exudes a milky juice when broken, which is more or less poisonous and used as an ingredient in arrow poisons. E. hirta possesses antibacterial, anthelmintic, antiasthmatic, sedative, antispasmodic, antifertility, antifungal, and antimalarial properties

Euphorbia is a massive genus however so i cannot draw conclusions especially as i'm no botanist etc

so use remains inconclusive, though as both compounds on "poison applicator" have medicinal qualities, and the beeswax/euphorbia bundle is bound in stringlike plant-fibres, it would be a reasonable suggestion that this is a medic's supply of remedies and a bandage/medicinal binding respectively.
more opinions are most welcome on this
edit on 29-4-2013 by skalla because: extra info etc

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 10:51 AM
reply to post by skalla

There are quite a lot of Peer reviewed articles here too if you are interested Skalla :


just type in Ricinolic acid in the search box

Kindest respects


edit on 29-4-2013 by Rodinus because: Link broken
edit on 29-4-2013 by Rodinus because: forgot link

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 11:03 AM
Very informative OP. S&F

It is important to note that this may not have been the modern humans that did this. It could have been a different humanoid, some of which are very old lines of genetics. They may have interbred with humans or they may have taught humans to do these things though. It would be interesting to know how much intelligence these humanoids really had. Could they have been looking at the stars wondering if we were the only planet? Did they debate things like we do? Did they try to solve the problems they saw amongst their people and form societies and basic laws that were followed? I don't think a species of humanoids that was hundreds of thousands of years old had to have primative cultures as some think. I also think they may have had some of the same needs we have but understand that their wants were much different.

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 02:02 PM
Nice find Skalla looks as if Southern Africa is to modern cognitive thinking what Eastern Africa is to the rise of homo sapiens..S&F

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 02:33 PM
Hey skalla,

Nice contribution ,
Can't wait till I get off work to discuss.


posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 02:50 PM
This highlights that we shouldn't underestimate our ancestors.

I think I recall that around 75,000 years ago the world experienced a world-wide catastrophe possibly relating to a super volcano. Around that time, there was a great die off of people.

And there's the periods of climate change to consider. Like rapid rise in sea level. This would drive people away from places they might have been for hundreds or thousands of years.

I'm sure we're only getting a tiny glimpse at our past. I hope we find more.

Note this section of the wiki link:
en.wikipedia.org - Human...

By the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic period (50,000 BP (Before Present)), full behavioral modernity, including language, music and other cultural universals had developed.[39][40] As modern humans spread out from Africa they encountered other hominids such as Homo neanderthalensis and the so-called Denisovans, who may have evolved from populations of Homo erectus that had left Africa already around 2 million years ago. The nature of interaction between early humans and these sister species has been a long standing source of controversy, the question being whether humans replaced these earlier species or whether they were in fact similar enough to interbreed, in which case these earlier populations may have contributed genetic material to modern humans.[41] Recent studies of the Human and Neanderthal genomes suggest gene flow between archaic Homo sapiens and Neanderthals and Denisovans.

This migration out of Africa is estimated to have begun about 70,000 years BP. Modern humans subsequently spread globally, replacing earlier hominins (either through competition or hybridization). They inhabited Eurasia and Oceania by 40,000 years BP, and the Americas at least 14,500 years BP.
edit on 29-4-2013 by jonnywhite because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 02:56 PM
reply to post by Rodinus

Just had to comment- the lower stones look like Yellowstone agate...a rock very very common up here in ND.

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 03:07 PM
reply to post by rickymouse

hiya, glad you enjoyed reading this.. the in depth report is pretty clear that the folk responsible for these finds are modern humans:

Such innovations are used to support a scenario that postulates a causal
connection between the origin of our species in Africa ∼200 ka and
a gradual emergence of modern cultures on that continent. This
model predicts a gradual accretion of cultural innovations in
Africa, which facilitated the spread of our species out of Africa and
the replacement of archaic hominin forms

though obvs it appears that the teams interpretation re the "poison" was wide of the mark, and they do add a noteworthy caveat to the above statement:

First, Neanderthals exhibited many complex
behaviors (pigment use, funerary practices, complex hafting
techniques, wood-working, personal ornamentation, and bone tool
manufacture) before or at the very moment of contact with modern
humans (13, 15–18). Second, many of the innovations are only
found at a few sites of a given technocomplex, which makes one
wonder whether they can be considered as integral features of those
cultural systems or just the expressions of local traditions (7, 12).
Third, many of the innovations recorded in Africa and the Near
East disappear in a staggered manner between 70 ka and 50 ka

but this site is the earliest discovered to have a "full house" of these innovations, and also is shown to have a massively lengthy period of use into about 20kya - i dont have any info on finds of human remains though... i may have time to look for this later in the week unless a kind reader beats me to it

as for their intelligence, i would expect that they were smarter than the average bear considering their level of innovation.... no doubt they had their own tales and ways of decoding and explaining the world around them, would that we had a way of experiencing it for ourselves

reply to post by Spider879

absolutely, spider..and these innovations are happening at about the time modern man left africa to spread around the world - surely these innovations played a role in encouraging that move, or at least enabling it in some way

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 03:25 PM
reply to post by skalla

The only problem with the "out of Africa" stance is that there were already fully modern humans in northeast Asia 100k years ago, and modern humans see in southeast Asia by 65k years ago.

And take into account that there are sites in the new world that date to 50 k years ago, burnham ok, topper sc,
Meadowcroft in pa and I just found a reference in the literature to a sit here if fresno county Ca that is over 50 k years old.

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 03:31 PM
Ricin's not a particularly fast toxin, I'm not sure how much use it would be for hunting.

A poison that takes 24 hours to drop your game isn't going to be very useful, IMHO. That's why most hunting poisons are neurotoxins or blockaders like curare.

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 05:13 PM
reply to post by punkinworks10

thanks for the contribution dude - my back ground ed-wise is mostly the neolithic to the iron age rather than paleontology and early man etc (the whole primitive skills thing for me is a practical interest that came after uni etc)..
like johnnywhite above my own general reading has given the OOA thing at about 70kya.. obvs a different subject to the OP but relevant nevertheless..do you know if this suite of innovations referenced is seen in these pioneering groups elsewhere in the world that you mention, and is there evidence that these groups survived and developed, or died out similar to the groups in africa who pioneered some of the technological innovations and then died out?
the report from the OP suggests that what is shown here in SA is the earliest trace of this "full house" of modernity, but the more i look into this article and reaction to it the more i am struck by possible innacuracies in their interpretations (shown via the "poison applictor" question), which is particularly interesting as i initially posted it as news and then this "other" potential story develops from examination of the report.

reply to post by Bedlam

thanks for commenting... this idea of ricinoleic acid as a poison seems quite discredited and the archaeological teams finding in this area seem pretty wide of the mark. it could be that it was used for medicinal purposes due to anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and part of a prehistoric medical kit (possibly the same for the euphorbia/beeswax compound too).. i'm speculating here of course but perhaps the traces of the acid could come from the oil of the bean and it was just another low quality hafting material as the euphorbia/wax mix has also been shown to be usable as (the oil may have added plasticity and removed brittle properties unwanted in a hafting sustance). the only convincing evidence for a hafting compound appears to be the suberin from yellowwood trees which is actually found on points, as the teams evidence for the poison being used as such seems to rely on it being found on a supposed broken arrow shaft that does not seem fit for purpose due it's lack of straightness, easily remedied by heating the shaft over a fire and bending while still hot.

reply to post by SweetKarma

thanks for commenting, just for reference i think this find is from northern france if i remember earlier posts of Rodinus correctly.. i have some flint at home (where i am not at present) from that area which has a very similar brown tinge and very thin cortex
edit on 29-4-2013 by skalla because: third reply

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 07:40 PM
reply to post by skalla

A great read, very informative. I was reading some other comments you left in a Gobleki Tepe Animal thread earlier, and you act very professional. Even here. Kudos.

Bad news: You need to work on your grammar a bit. A lot of your sentences aren't capitalized at the beginning, and you really like to add more than the one necessary period at the end of sentences. IMHO, it really detracts from the professionalism you apparently wish to display. As a grammar nazi, I query myself why someone with so much knowledge would be so sloppy on grammar. Have they never wrote a thesis before? What gives? Do we toss grammar out the window just because it's an internet forum? You may want to link this information later, so why not keep it ship-shape?

Back on topic: If they had a working knowledge at 44kya, of beeswax and native chemical effects, that means the "trial and error" period extends back further.

It also begs the question if they domesticated bees, or just found random hives in the area. Given the aridity of the area, the ancestors of African Bees would be just as temperamental as their modern counterparts, and swarm as frequently. Did they find old hives by accident, or did they have the wherewithal to study behavior? They didn't just find a random hive, abandoned, and said hey, let's play with this stuff. I think they were intelligent enough to know where to find beeswax. Well, of course, that's speculation, but it's very interesting to read about beeswax, and to think domestication of bees goes back that far.

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 07:52 PM
reply to post by Druid42

Yikes a grammar national socialist,
Aside from that there is clear evidence of utilizing bee products without actually domesiticating the bee.
There are plenty of example of people who harvest the fruits of bee socety, with out actually domesticating them.

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 08:16 PM
reply to post by punkinworks10

there is clear evidence of utilizing bee products

Care to link a source? I'd like to follow up on that. Source articles bring more into the discussion.

posted on Apr, 29 2013 @ 09:18 PM
reply to post by Druid42

I wish I could, but can't. There are tribes in western Africa, southwest China, and the phillipines that harvest wild bee products, ie honey and wax.
I wish I could be more forthcoming with info but cant, they are well documented tribes, so with enough research one should he able to find them.
What struck me the most about the various people, is that they used essentially the same method for gathering bee products.
In a couple of istances the chance to collect honey is a right of passage for young men.
They have to able to climb the 100-200 feet into the tree , carrying a smouldering bundle of grasses, and subdue the bees with smoke, to obtain honey and wax.
It's a fascinating ritual.

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