This is “shell art” collected by Dutch geologist Eugene Dubois in Trinil, Indonesia, back in the 1890s. Seven years ago, a PhD student and an archaeologist were re-exploring the Dubois collection and made this very cool “find”.
The simple zigzag pattern, found on a fossilised shell from the Indonesian island of Java, has been dated to at least 430,000 years.
The find, reported in the journal Nature on Thursday, predates by some 300,000 years other markings made by modern humans or Neanderthals, previously thought the oldest.
The age and location of the shell suggests the pattern was carved by an even earlier human ancestor known as Homo erectus.
“It rewrites human history,” said Dr Stephen Munro, the Australian National University paleoanthropologist who made the find.
It suggests Homo erectus had considerable manual dexterity and possibly greater cognitive abilities, and raises the prospect that they might have been more “human” than previously thought. “That’s something people will argue about,” Munro said.
Some sources believe the engraving is over 540,000 years old. If you click-through to the source you will find a very interesting timeline; that includes some related ancient art finds.
What caught my eye is that a fresh clam shell would have a dark brown coat, so the etching would have made a prominent white line. The scientists suggested that this engraving may have been a practice run for a decoration on another object.