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Top Ten Archaeology News Stories of the Decade

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5 of 10

Middle Stone Age Complexity
Engraved ochres from Blombos Cave.

Engraved ochres from Blombos Cave.

Henshilwood et al. 2002 / Science

Archaeological investigations into sites on the coast of Africa and the Levant, from South Africa to the Mediterranean, have led to some startling evolutionary evidence about the first rise of human behaviors. The 21st century site investigations have revealed similar evidence of behavioral modernity by 70,000-80,000 years ago at several sites associated with the Mousterian, Aterian and Howiesons Poort/Still Bay complex sites along the Mediterranean and South African coasts.

Why Nominate the Middle Stone Age?

Up until the recent discoveries at these archaeological sites, scientists were largely of the opinion that the burst of human modernity (called the Creative Explosion) occurred only about 40,000 years ago, in Upper Paleolithic Europe. The discoveries along coastal African sites have revealed that the "explosion", including symbolic thought, sophisticated hunting techniques and portable art, in fact began at least 80,000 years ago, and perhaps much longer.

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