IN PICS | A day on the beach 100,000 years ago

Ancient geometric patterns created in sand on the Cape coast are hailed as one of the most profound artefact finds of our species, writes Heather Dugmore

02 May 2021 - 00:00 By Heather Dugmore

Humans delight in creating patterns in the sand, and more than 100,000 years ago it would appear we were no different. People were drawing triangles in the dunes along SA’s southern Cape coast. They had also mastered how to draw perfect circles and sculpted something that closely resembles a stingray, between 70,000 and 158,000 years ago.

“Our most recent finds in this same area are two large triangles on loose slabs of cemented Pleistocene dune surfaces,” says Dr Charles Helm from the African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience (ACCP) at Nelson Mandela University. These examples of “palaeoart”, or what we call ammoglyphs — carvings, images or symbols made in dune sand that are now cemented into rock known as aeolianite — indicate that early modern humans were capable of creating exceptional geometric patterns...

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