Curious case of the mystery bones

08 August 2016 - 09:26 By SHAUN SMILLIE


Mossel Bay police might have a "whodunnit" on their hands after archaeologists found unfossilised bones at a site they were exploring. Detectives from KwaNonqaba, near Mossel Bay, in Western Cape, are waiting for forensic test results to determine if the bones found at Pinnacle Point are human.Lieutenant-Colonel Johan Braaff, the KwaNonqaba police commander, said if the bones were human there would be an investigation.It was the condition of the bones that worriedCurtis Marean, a professor at the Institute of Human Origins, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, at Arizona State University, in the US."They are not fossilised. They were near the surface and Stone Age remains were not present."Marean, who leads an international team of archaeologists working the site, said the bones were found near the surface of the sediments, at the very back of a cave. He said human remains had not been found before in this cave, known as PP56.Pinnacle Point is made up of a series of caves that have been excavated since 2000 and which have revealed the presence of hunter-gatherers between 170,000 and 40,000 years ago.It is conjectured that humans took refuge at Pinnacle Point during the last ice age, which brought drier conditions and a reduction in food resources. Excavations have shown that they fed on marine creatures.Discoveries at Pinnacle Point are believed to reveal the evolution of human symbolic behaviour. Traces of ground ochre found suggest body painting.The oldest evidence of the heat treatment of rocks to make stone tools has also been found.The government has proposed that Pinnacle Point be declared a World Heritage site.Archaeologists have found human remains older than 90,000 years in another cave, PP13B.

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