The Wonders of Blombos Cave, South Africa

Essay by tashaterminateCollege, UndergraduateB+, September 2012

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The origins of modern human behavior are a contentious issue and the subject of ongoing and extensive debates. However, recent archaeological discoveries seem to pinpoint the prehistoric inhabitants of Blombos Cave in Southern Africa mediating symbolic behavior, playing an intrinsic role in creating the earliest social conventions. In a 30-minute documentary, Christopher Henshilwood and his team will expose viewers to their remarkable archaeological findings, involving a coating of bright red powder known as ochre being embedded on the insides of two Haliotis midae (abalone) shells. In essence, the substance was assumed to be the dried remains of a primitive form of paint, and was found along with other artifacts such as grindstones, hammer stones and animal bones, claimed to serve as paint toolkits (Henshilwood, 2001). These encounters perpetuates the notion of how our earliest ancestors of Homo sapiens in the Middle Stone Age (MSA) may have been processing an artist's workshop, outlining the primary human technical and behavioral skills that could essentially develop the first emergence of art culture.

Consequently, this documentary will deliberate the behavioral paradigms regarding the use of ochre, and investigate of whether the transition to modernity conducts was of linear or mosaic nature.

In the introductory section, viewers will be introduced with an expository understanding of the Blombos cave topography, locating the cave in a limestone cliff on the coast of South Africa about 180 miles east of Cape Town. Besides being shielded against vigorous wind and rain, the Blombos cave is also positioned approximately 3.45 meters above sea level, revealing high abundances of marine resources (Henshilwood, 2001). These conditions may have encouraged nomadic hunter-gatherers to reside in this cave while developing a sophisticated means of subsistence by forming stone tools. Furthermore, viewers will also be illustrated with the stratigraphical sequence of the Blombos...