Ksar Akil is one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in Eurasia. It consists of a 23 metre deep sequence of archaeological layers that lay undisturbed for thousands of years until a team of American Jesuit priests excavated the rockshelter in 1937-38, and again after the end of the WWII, in 1947-48
Approximately 50 ka, one or more subgroups of modern humans expanded from Africa to populate the rest of the world. Significant behavioral change accompanied this expansion, and archaeologists commonly seek its roots in the African Middle Stone Age (MSA; ∼200 to ∼50 ka). Easily recognizable art objects and “jewelry” become common only in sites that postdate the MSA in Africa and Eurasia, but some MSA sites contain possible precursors, especially including abstractly incised fragments of ocher and perforated shells interpreted as beads. These proposed art objects have convinced most specialists that MSA people were behaviorally (cognitively) modern, and many argue that population growth explains the appearance of art in the MSA and its post-MSA florescence. The average size of rocky intertidal gastropod species in MSA and later coastal middens allows a test of this idea, because smaller size implies more intense collection, and more intense collection is most readily attributed to growth in the number of human collectors. Here we demonstrate that economically important Cape turban shells and limpets from MSA layers along the south and west coasts of South Africa are consistently and significantly larger than turban shells and limpets in succeeding Later Stone Age (LSA) layers that formed under equivalent environmental conditions. We conclude that whatever cognitive capacity precocious MSA artifacts imply, it was not associated with human population growth. MSA populations remained consistently small by LSA standards, and a substantial increase in population size is obvious only near the MSA/LSA transition, when it is dramatically reflected in the Out-of-Africa expansion.
Excavations of Neanderthal sites more than 40,000 years old have uncovered a kind of tool that leather workers still use to make hides more lustrous and water resistant. The bone tools, known as lissoirs, had previously been associated only with modern humans. The latest finds indicate that Neanderthals and modern humans might have invented the tools independently.
Prehistoric dots and crimson hand stencils on Spanish cave walls are now the world's oldest known cave art, according to new dating results—perhaps the best evidence yet that Neanderthals were Earth's first cave painters.
If that's the case, the discovery narrows the cultural distance between us and Neanderthals—and fuels the argument, at least for one scientist, that the heavy-browed humans were not a separate species but only another race.
Significant changes in human behaviour, cognition and innovation become sharply evident in the archaeological record of Eurasia at 45,000 years BP and demarcate the end of the Middle Palaeolithic and the onset of the Upper Palaeolithic period. The material cultures associated with the latter include the so-called “transitional” technocomplexes (e.g., the Châtelperronian of Franco-Cantabria, the Uluzzian of Italy and the Bachokirian of Bulgaria), and the subsequent Early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP) technocomplexes, namely the (Proto- and Early) Aurignacian found throughout the continent. In the Eastern Mediterranean region (hereafter, the Levant) the earliest Upper Palaeolithic includes the Emiran and Initial Upper Palaeolithic (IUP) entities, and the succeeding EUP, locally known as the Early Ahmarian, technocomplex. When compared to the Middle Palaeolithic record, these technocomplexes exhibit technological and typological diversification in stone tools made on blades, occasional production of organic implements from bone and antler, and importantly, the sudden appearance of personal ornamentation in the form of marine shell beads. These were not part of the behavioural package of previous human populations (Neanderthals) living in the same region.
reply to post by peter vlar
Hey peter v
I think a lot has to do with which population is being discussed. Like you said in the Levant ,tool tech is definitely somewhat behind the times, while in Europe we have HSN doing stuff that would be considered culturally modern, artt and music, and a sense of self identify and individualism with the use of body decoration and the use of jewelly.
What is interesting is that while "modern"humans spread around the wolrd, cultural modernity shows up in a somewhat patchy fashion not at all related to actual movement of people.
As I mentioned in my reply to Hans , I've done some reading that has changed my views somewhat, specifically some of the skeletal morphologies that are associated to "archaic" humans might actually be evolutionary adaptations to environment and lifestyle.