South Africa 'birthplace of hunter-gatherers'

31st Jul 2012

Researchers have suggested South Africa may have been the birthplace of the hunter-gatherer culture as long as 44,000 years ago.

The lifestyle of the San people has not changed for thousands of years. They live across the southern part of the African continent and are the nation's oldest inhabitants.

But researchers are now dating the San culture to be much older than previously thought, making it possible they pioneered the hunter-gatherer culture.

Scientists dated and studied objects found in South Africa's Border Cave, which is located in the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal.

These artefacts showed 44,000 years ago people in this area were using techniques and tools such as those of the San, according to scientists.

Earlier studies had dated the San culture back 10,000, or at its oldest, 20,000 years.

In this recent project, scientists examined wooden digging sticks, bone arrowhead points, bone awls, notched bones and shell and bead ornaments.

The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The dating and analysis of archaeological material discovered at Border Cave in South Africa has allowed us to demonstrate that many elements of material culture that characterise the lifestyle of San hunter-gatherers in southern Africa were part of the culture and technology of the inhabitants of this site 44,000 years ago," said Dr Lucinda Blackwell from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.

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