South Africa’s ancient enigma: the world’s oldest known sculpture unearthed

An ancient Pleistocene sculpture discovered in South Africa that could be the oldest artistic testimony of our species, depicting a blue stingray

South Africa, a pivotal site in human evolution, has once again illuminated its rich historical tapestry with an extraordinary archaeological find. Published in the Rock Art Research journal, this discovery includes a sandy rock sculpture dating back to the Pleistocene epoch, specifically around 130,000 years ago, located 330 km east of Cape Town in the renowned Still Bay region.

The discovery

The sculpture is a groundbreaking achievement in global archaeology. Should its dating be confirmed, it would represent the oldest known artistic evidence of our species and the earliest known human-made sculpture depicting an animal.

The collective efforts of paleoartists and archaeologists have unveiled this artifact, believed to depict a blue stingray (Dasyatis chrysonata), a fish still found in the waters off the Cape of Good Hope today.

Doubts and confirmations

Despite the clear visual evidence of the engraving on the sculpture, there are ongoing doubts about its origins. Further research is underway to dispel any uncertainties and definitively confirm the artifact’s age.

What makes this find even more significant is the realization that known prehistoric faunal representations, both in Europe and Australia, are much more recent and complex compared to this simple yet captivating engraving discovered at Still Bay.

The confirmation of the Pleistocene origin of this artifact would not only open a new chapter in the study of human evolution but would also push back the emergence of art in our species by thousands of years, revolutionizing our current understanding of prehistoric art history.

Source: Rock Art Research

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