Shell Bits Display Intelligence of Ancient Humans

on March 6, 2010
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BBC News: “Etched Ostrich Eggs Illustrate Human SophisticationBits of shell discovered in South Africa display the intelligence of “ancient” humans.

Found in South Africa years ago, the ostrich shell fragments are etched with lines of symbolic importance, a team of scientists reports in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The use of symbolism is an important marker in distinguishing human intelligence from that of animals.

The use of symbols sets humans apart from animals.

According to the scientists, what proves that the etchings weren’t just artistic doodles is the quantity of them: nearly 300 pieces of etched eggshell, constituting a system of symbolic communication, the team says. Additionally, the researchers report that etching the shells was no easy feat. And ScienceNOW notes that among the shells were some “that appeared to have been pierced with a tool to make a hole in the top part of the egg.”

The University of Bordeaux’s Pierre-Jean Texier, one of the researchers, explained, “The motif is two parallel lines, which we suppose were circular . . . . The lines are crossed at right angles or oblique angles by hatching. By the repetition of this motif, early humans were trying to communicate something”—perhaps indicating ownership or describing what the eggs contained. (The researchers speculate that the large eggs could have been used as canteens, for instance.)

Of course, creationists interpret the shells as having a much more recent origin, which renders them less unique and not so notable. What remains interesting is, first, that the use of symbols sets humans apart from animals and reminds us that we are uniquely made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); and, second, that as evolutionists discover evidence of sophisticated human behavior farther back in their timescale, they must recognize that older and older humans were actually little different from us—which goes against the evolutionary model of ape-man progression.

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