Africans are usually conscious of their physical appearance, how they appear to other people, or if they feel beautiful and this is owing to the fact that their appearance is an expression of their identity. An example of such consciousness can be found in the way the males of the Dinka tribe curl their hair with straw or the way their female counterparts adorn themselves with beads, the way the Rwandans adorn themselves with the Umushana or the way most Africans style their braids. It, therefore, is not far-fetched that the oldest jewelry is found in Africa.
In the West Morocco desert, archeologists discovered the world’s oldest jewelry. It is a set of shell beads dated from 142,000 and 150,000 years ago. The bead comes from two different sea snail species; the Columbella rustic, from the dove snail family and the Tritia Gibbosula commonly called the swollen nassa.
It is made from half-inch-long sea snail shells and there are 33 beads in total. Each shell had a hole drilled through, presumably so that it could be hung on strings or articles of clothing or possibly worn as earrings or a necklace. Many of the beads had polished, smoothed-down edges which indicated the intentional handwork of a craftsperson.
The cave was first found by surveyors in 2004 and the first excavations had been conducted in 2008 and 2009. Another excavation was conducted between 2014 and 2018 which was when the 33 beads turned up near the mouth of Bizmoune Cave, about 10 miles inland from the coastal city of Essaouira.
The archaeologists used uranium-series dating, which measured the radioactive decay of uranium to test the age of the beads and the surrounding layers of ash and sediment.
The finding of this jewelry indicates that humans years ago were interested in communicating with bigger groups of people than their immediate friends and family. A professor in anthropology in the University of Arizona and the author of one of the papers written on this, in a statement said “ the beads were probably part of the way the people expressed their identity with their clothing. They are the tip of the iceberg for that kind of human trait. They show that it was present even hundreds of thousands of years ago and that humans were interested in communicating to bigger groups of people than their immediate friends and family”. He also stated, “we do not know what they mean but they are clearly symbolic objects that were deployed in a way other people could see them”.
Other things have been found and the finding of this jewelry is similar to other findings on the African continent with the earliest example being just 130,000 years ago.
This finding is a major discovery for Morocco and humanity at large. It is believed that some of it were used as a form of communication in ancient times which times the use of the body as a means of communication by humans did not just start now.
The discovery was made by an international team composed of the Institut National de l’Archeologie et du Patrimoine in Rabat, the University of Arizona, Tucson and the Mediterranean Laboratory of Prehistory Europe Africa.