Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wednesday Weird: The Makapansgat Pebble

Today's post is less weird and more interesting/fascinating.
 
 
 
This is the Makapansgat Pebble. It's stream-worn jasperite, about 2 inches across, 3 inches high and about half a pound. So mostly it would fit nicely in your hand. It was found in South Africa in 1925.
 
The markings are natural, from living in a stream bed. So even though it looks like a face, that's just coincidental. I also think maybe he's wearing a nice little hat. A beret, perhaps? I suppose he could also be suffering from a bowl cut given by his mother. I'm sticking with beret, because then maybe he's eating macarons. Omnomnom.
 
But, this rock was discovered in a cave miles from the creek where it made its home. Which means someone moved it to the cave.
And this is where it gets interesting.
 
This rock, the Makapansgat pebble or the pebble of many faces (because you can actually see 2 more faces on it at different angles), was carried into that cave 2.5 to 2.9 million years ago. The Makapansgat pebble one the oldest known manuports (an object moved from its natural context by human agency but otherwise unmodified).
 
"Wait," you may ask. "There weren’t any humans around that long ago.” Very true. The pebble was found in a cave that was inhabited by Australopithecus africanus, a bipedal hominid that may be our ancestor.
 

 
 
So not only is this rock a candidate for the first known object moved by “humans,” it may be the first known example of a human ancestor exhibiting symbolic thought or aesthetic sense.
 
So what that means is, when that hominid found this stone in the creek, and recognized its resemblance to a face, this was the very first hint of what it meant to be human.
 
Awesome.
 
We are connected to a little ape-like hominid from millions of years ago because we, like them, can gaze at this rock and see a face. With or without a beret.
 
 

15 comments:

Maria Zannini said...

Awareness. Pass it on.

Very cool.

mshatch said...

what a cool little rock! And how interesting that someone way back then found it as cool as we do today.

Southpaw said...

Very cool. The "hat" looks kind of like an elf hat to me.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So our ancestors appreciated natural art?

Teebore said...

You're stream-worn jasperite.

Seriously though, neat story. I'd never heard about it before.

a bipedal hominid that may be our ancestor.

That is one handsome lady...

Anne Gallagher said...


This is totally cool.

Rena said...

That's pretty impressive. I assume they were able to date when it had been put in the cave by dating the sediments they found around it. Totally awesome.

Hart Johnson said...

YAY for early rock collectors!!! Love it... but how do they KNOW when it was moved? I mean I'm not doubting you, but that is a piece of the puzzle, yeah?

DL Hammons said...

Long live ROCK and Roll!! :)

Mel Kinnel said...

Very interesting!

I'll go with the beret even though I have to admit I thought it looked like a Milk Dud. Maybe that's because I wanted a treat.

Catherine Stine said...

She's got a swag about her, and I fully believe that early humanoids valued objects that resembled them in some way.

Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

Just because something doesn't look human doesn't mean it isn't aware. Dolphins are very aware of each other. So are elephants, who grow visibly disturbed at the sight of their own bones. So yeah...lots of intelligence out there. It's really quite stupid that humans go around thinking that we are the only ones capable of making conscious decisions about things.

Matthew MacNish said...

With. Definitely with.

Kelley Lynn said...

Wow. I got goosebumps. SO cool! This sounds like it could be the base of a neat story.

Unknown said...

He's kinda got Conan O'Brien hair.

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