540,000-year-old artwork discovered on shell

540,000-Year-Old Artwork Discovered On Shell

A 540,000-year-old art object shows that prehistoric upright walkers may have had quite a bit more going on upstairs that people give them credit for.

Human's early ancestor, Homo erectus, is generally thought to have been lacking in cognitive abilities. A recent study of mussel shells collected in the late 1800's shows that the prehistoric upright walkers may have had quite a bit more going on upstairs than people give them credit for.

In analyzing several shells stored in a Dutch museum, researchers determined their age to be around 540 thousand years old. One shell in particular has a very purposeful design carved into it, most likely with a tooth from an ancient species of shark. Essential in the creation of such an art object is an advanced level of cognition not typically associated with earlier species.

540,000-year-old shell
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540,000-year-old artwork discovered on shell

Executing the design also would have required a great deal of strength and precision.

Said one of the researchers, "The maker certainly must have put a lot of effort in it. Also, it is important to appreciate that originally the lines must have been white on a black-brown background: visually very striking."

Believed to be the oldest know example of artwork, it was found among several artifacts that were collected by a Dutch doctor in the 1890's in modern day Indonesia. Discovered with it was another shell fashioned in a way that makes it appear to be a tool.

Prior to this discovery, it was believed that Homo erectus exclusively used implements made of stone.

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