Oldest art at Klasies?
By: Reinoud Boers (editor), 11 May 2012

An ochre pebble bearing a sequence of linear incisions dating back to about 100 000 years recovered from Klasies River Cave on the Cape south coast may be the world's oldest engraving. The object is described in the April issue of the Journal of Archaeology. ‘Associated human remains indicate that the engraved piece was made by Homo sapiens,’ said co-author Riaan Rifkin of Wits’ Institute for Human Evolution. Rifkin and colleagues Francesco d'Errico and Renata Garcia Moreno performed extensive non-invasive analyses of the object and conclude that humans intentionally made the sub-parallel linear incisions on pebble.

‘Upon engraving the piece with a sharp lithic implement, it is likely to have produced a markedly bright and dark red-maroon powder,’ Rifkin said. ‘The design may therefore have been strikingly visible shortly after it was produced.’ The pebble measures about 75 mm in length and contains a series of seven deep, broad engraved lines and about 16 narrower and somewhat shallower linear features. ‘The fragment is a remnant of a formerly semi-circular ochre pebble that likely contained a much more extensive engraved design on its surface,’ Rifkin said. Of particular interest now is whether or not the engraver made the design with symbolic intent. Both linear and crosshatch engraved patterns may have been common thousands of years ago. Similar designs appear on engraved ochres from Blombos Cave and on ostrich eggshell fragments found in the Diepkloof rock shelter on the west coast.

Discovery News, 23/03/12