Cape town stakes claim as birthplace of modern man

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Cape Town, Oct 27 : The southern Cape town of South Africa has been singled out by an anthropologist as the most likely birthplace of modern humans - thanks, at least partly, to its abundance of fish.

According to a report in The Times, the anthropologist in question is Dr Curtis Marean, who presented his findings earlier this month at the Nobel Conference in Minnesota in the US.

Rich pickings of fleshy roots and bulbs, courtesy of the juicy Cape floral kingdom, are another crucial reason why mankind finally progressed past grunting to arithmetic and outboard motors, according to Dr Marean.

Fossil evidence of Homo sapiens has been found at several sites across Africa, including two 195000-year-old skulls in Ethiopia.

But, a Mossel Bay site has thrown up the oldest known evidence of "modern" human behaviour - evidenced by complex tools and dyes used for rock art.

This evidence is 164000 years old - by far the oldest known signs of the kind of collective behaviour considered the hallmark of "modern man".

"Those other areas (in Africa) don't have the same evidence for behavioural complexity that we see here," Marean said.

"What we're talking about here is the origins of modern humans - modern behaviour of people like us, who have language, who view the world through symbols, who express themselves artistically," he added.

"That's where the Cape is very rich. There isn't a place anywhere else in the world that has a record as rich as what you have here along the coastline," he further added.

He said that the evidence strongly suggested that Mossel Bay was the frontrunner for bragging rights as the cradle of humankind, and supported the current scientific view that all of mankind descended from a single breeding group of between 600 and 1000 people.

Marean believes those people were probably also the first residents of Mossel Bay.

To back his claim, he points to archaeological evidence unearthed in caves on the outskirts of the coastal town.

Ancient stone blades embedded in bones, discarded shellfish and the use of dyes in primitive rock painting suggest complex behaviour - immortalised in the cave's rocky floor.

Remains also point to a princely ancestral diet of whelks, barnacles, mussels and limpets.

A major global ice age between 194000 and 125000 years ago meant these prehistoric Africans were eating seafood and expanding their minds at a time when other bands of Homo sapiens in Africa were mostly starving to death.

According to Marean, the archaeological evidence for behavioural complexity (or modern human behaviour), the Mossel Bay area is a very likely region for the location of the modern human progenitor population.

ANI

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