120,000-Year-Outmoded Stingray Sand ‘Sculpture’ Say in South Africa

Nelson Mandela College researcher Charles Helm and his colleagues maintain came upon an interesting rock about 30 km (18.6 miles) east of the South African Blombos Cave, which is famous for its paleoart. The article is unusually symmetrical and is shaped look after a stingray (minus the tail). In accordance with the archaeologists, the object could well perchance be oldest example of folks creating an describe of but every other creature.

The upper (a) and lower (b) surfaces of the purported sand sculpture from South Africa. Image credit: Helm et al.

The upper (a) and lower (b) surfaces of the purported sand sculpture from South Africa. Image credit: Helm et al.

“We posit that it represents a sand-sculpture of a blue stingray (Dasyatis chrysonota),” Dr. Helm and co-authors acknowledged.

“We believe that the sculpture could well perchance furthermore maintain begun with tracing a specimen within the sand.”

“Why will we utilize words look after ‘posit’ and ‘believe,’ reasonably than being more confident and assertive?”

“Before all the pieces, we can no longer show our interpretation, and others can no longer falsify it. It due to this truth represents speculation — despite the proven truth that it’s a ways extremely educated speculation in response to our working out of many tens of thousands of such rocks.”

“Secondly, dilapidated paleoart is rare within the archaeological file, and could well perchance furthermore be more durable to acknowledge than more most contemporary artwork: we essentially don’t know how a lot we don’t know.”

“On the opposite hand, if our interpretation is solely, there are a resolve on of implications,” they added.

“Making sand sculptures or ‘sand castles,’ as many of our younger of us like to fabricate on dunes and beaches today, is an activity that dates assist on the least to the Center Stone Age, around 130,000 years ago.”

“This is capable of well perchance be the oldest known example of folks creating an describe of a creature assorted than themselves — a invent of representational artwork.”

“Tracing could well perchance be a stepping stone to later emergence of representational artwork in caves.”

In accordance with the team of workers, the stingray ‘sculpture’ dates to the Center Stone Age, most potentially the Marine Isotope Stage 5e (between 124,000 and 119,000 years ago).

“Viewing the rock from within the assist of displays additional symmetry moreover proof of what looks look after a tail stub,” the scientists acknowledged.

“We pick up no proof that the tail fragment broke off recently, and speculate that it could perchance probably well perchance furthermore had been deliberately ‘amputated’ when the sculpture became created.”

“We contend that either the artist became phenomenally proficient in recording such element or that the describe became traced.”

“If it became traced, the disk width of lower than 30 cm (11.8 inches) implies that it became made of a male or miniature immature female.”

“The notion of tracing is associated to both the size of the characteristic (corresponding to that of a stingray) and its procedure-excellent shape.”

“Besides, the a pair of ranges of symmetry occur no longer only within the frilly of the rock and in areas honest like the fins, but in addition within the sample engraved on its surface.”

“So, where does our postulated sand sculpture fit into the emergence of artwork within the dilapidated file?” they acknowledged.

“The beautiful corpus of western European rock artwork, starting about 40,000 years ago, appears to emerge , as if out of nowhere, preceded largely by abstract symbols from various world locations.”

“There is an interval of around 90,000 years between when this purported stingray sand sculpture became created and the emergence of those works of artwork on the walls of caves in Europe, potentially the most notorious of which is France’s Chauvet Cave.”

“The concept that of the sector’s customary artwork being in sand, and sand thus being the customary canvas, provides sizable time for these talents to be honed over the intervening millennia.”

“The absence of such artwork within the archaeological file can simply be attributed to the absence of appropriate rocks preserved from the intervening ages.”

“Certainly, ammoglyphs (patterns made in sand by ancestral hominins and now evident in rock) maintain only been reported from the Cape south budge.”

“Right here’s a reminder of the rarity of dilapidated paleoart and the truth of taphonomic bias: leather-primarily primarily based fully and wood decay sooner than bone, which decays sooner than rock, and dilapidated paleoart could well perchance furthermore had been more general than is instructed by the sparse examples within the archaeological file.”

“Moreover, it reminds us that there are more kinds to dilapidated rock artwork than engraving and painting or drawing.”

“We counsel, due to this truth, that tracing in sand could well perchance furthermore invent a that it’s essential perchance well perchance presumably furthermore believe ‘stepping stone’ between abstract pictures and photographs of creatures created ‘from scratch’.”

“A flattish animal corresponding to a stingray would maintain supplied a appropriate mannequin for tracing, when compared with more three-dimensional forms.”

“We have got got tentatively instructed a sequence of development of representational paleoart from preliminary tracing in sand, to the creation of pictures in sand (thru copying or from memory), and then to rock artwork.”

The findings are printed within the journal Rock Art Research.


Charles W. Helm et al. 2024. A purported Pleistocene sand sculpture from South Africa. Rock Art Research 41 (1): 58-73