The Oldest Evidence Of Human Action In African Desert Cave


Few sites on the planet preserve a ceaseless archeological record crossing a long period of time. Wonderwerk Cave, located in South Africa’s the Kalahari Desert, is one of those rare sites. Meaning miracle in Afrikaans, Wonderwerk Cave has been identified as potentially the earliest cave occupation on the planet and the site of some of the earliest signs of fire use and apparatus making among prehistoric people.

New research published in Quaternary Science Reviews, led by a team of geologists and archeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) and the University of Toronto, affirms the record-breaking date of this spectacular site.

The team had the option to successfully establish the shift from Oldowan instruments (mostly sharp flakes and cleaving apparatuses) to early handaxes over 1 million years prior and to date the deliberate use of fire by our prehistoric ancestors to 1 million years prior, in a layer deep inside the cave. The latter is specially huge because other examples of early fire use come from open-air sites where the possible role of wildfires can’t be excluded. Moreover, Wonderwerk contained a full cluster of fire remnants that consumed bone, sediment, and instruments just as the presence of debris.

Dating cave deposits is one of the greatest challenges in paleo-human sciences, otherwise known as the study of human evolution. To overcome this challenge, the team analyzed a 2.5-meter thick sedimentary layer that contained stone apparatuses, the creature remains, and fire remnants utilizing two methods paleomagnetism and internment dating.

Magnetization occurred when dirt particles, that entered the cave from outside, settled on the prehistoric cave floor, thereby preserving the direction of the earth’s magnetic field at that time.

Reference/Journal Quaternary Science Reviews
Source/Provided by Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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