World's oldest drawing is 73,000 years old and looks like a hashtag

James Marshall
September 13, 2018

Scientists in South Africa have found an ancient hashtag scrawled on a piece of rock that they believe is the world's oldest "pencil" drawing.

There have been numerous other artefacts found in Blombos Cave, 300 kilometres (185 miles) east of Cape Town, including beads covered in red ochre, engraved ochre fragments, and a paint-making kit dating back around 100,000 years.

A stone flake discovered in Blombos Cave with red ochre markings that archeologists say represent one of the oldest-known examples of human drawings, on South Africa's southern coast is shown in this photo released September 12, 2018.

The earliest known engraving, a zig-zag pattern incised on a fresh water shell from Trinil, Java, was found in layers dated to 540,000 years ago.

During the Middle Stone Age, early humans used ochre for things other than drawing, including as an additive to glue and as a sunscreen, according to the researchers.

It has nine lines, drawn in a red, fine-grained iron oxide. In terms of drawings, a recent article proposed that painted representations in three caves of the Iberian Peninsula were 64,000 years old - this would mean they were produced by Neanderthals.

As is so often the case with archaeological discoveries, the scientists excavating the cave did not immediately spot the Stone Age hashtag, and it ended up in a bucket of seemingly insignificant material destined for further scrutiny in the lab.

Etchings are a form of symbolic art, but they're made by cutting or scraping objects. A drawing, it can be argued, requires a different conceptual leap than etching.

The cave has played a central role in providing information about the behavioural evolution of anatomically modern humans since it was discovered in 1991.

Besides what has been called the world's first art, archaeologists also recovered a wide range of artifacts from inside the cave which include perforated shells, spear points, and other handy hunting tools, along with the remains of bones and ocher.

Modern man, known as homo sapiens, is first known to have appeared more than 315,000 years ago in what is now Africa.

Paul Bahn, author of Archaeology: The Essential Guide to Our Human Past, said this particular discovery doesn't really change our understanding of human history, though it's a welcome new piece of evidence.

According to National Geographic, the drawing itself is somewhat understated and can be likened to what nearly looks like a modern-day hashtag.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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