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The world’s oldest engraving discovered in shell


While cataloging a collection of mollusk shells found in the 19th century, a researcher noticed an engraving inside one of the shells that is 300,000 years older than the previously thought oldest engraving.

“When I got to image number 298 I almost fell off my chair. It was one of those eureka moments where I thought, ‘this really does have the potential to rewrite what we know about human evolution’,” he says.

The freshwater mollusc shells fossils, found in the same area and dated to around same time that Homo erectus lived, had geometric patterns etched into them, such as zigzag grooves, and holes in the precise location that would be easiest to open the shell.

Scientists also identified a polished shell that had been modified as a tool for cutting or scrapping.

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Story: Karl Gruber, Australian Geographic | Photo: Henk Caspers, Naturalis

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