Humans evolved by sharing technology and culture

Blombos Cave in South Africa has given us vast knowledge about our early ancestors. In 2015, four open access articles, with research finds from Blombos as a starting point, have been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“We are looking mainly at the part of South Africa where Blombos Cave is situated. We sought to find out how groups moved across the landscape and how they interacted,” says Christopher S. Henshilwood, Professor at the University of Bergen (UiB) and University of the Witwatersrand and one of the authors of the articles. 

Since its discovery in the early 1990s, Blombos Cave, about 300 kilometres east of Cape Town, South Africa, has yielded important new information on the behavioural evolution of the human species. The cave site was first excavated in 1991 and field work has been conducted there on a regular basis since 1997 - and is on-going. Read more.

75,000-year-old shell beads

These shell beads were made about 75,000 years ago and are among the world’s earliest examples of jewellery. They are from Blombos Cave, South Africa, and are coloured with red ochre. Each one has a hole, and this, along with other evidence, suggests they were strung together and worn as a necklace. Ochre is earth or rock that has a high concentration of iron, and has been used for tens of thousands of years as an ingredient for paint. Other objects from Blombos Cave included engraved ochre, bone points, and paint-making kits. Together these objects represent some of the earliest artistic traditions in the world.

Discover this nation’s fascinating history in our special exhibition South Africa: the art of a nation (27 October 2016 – 26 February 2017).

Exhibition sponsored by Betsy and Jack Ryan

Logistics partner IAG Cargo

Blombos Cave shell beads, on loan from Iziko Museums of South Africa, Social History Collections.