TracSymbols (Universitetet i Bergen)

This film provides information about the advances made concerning current understandings of the evolution of complex human behaviour in southern Africa during the Middle Stone Age. A major research challenge in archaeology is identifying when and how symbols were used for the first time to mediate hominin behaviour. This research is carried out as part of the TracSymbols project which is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) / ERC grant agreement n° 249587.

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An archaeological travelogue from South Africa

An archaeological travelogue from South Africa: AHKR PhD student Magnus Haaland recently recorded an archaeological excavation season in the De Hoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa. This short documentary film records his experience.
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Neanderthal Rock Engraving

A study of a rock engraving in Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar finds that the cross-hatched impression was likely created by Neanderthals and represents Neanderthals’ capacity for abstract expression. Previously-discovered cave art has been exclusively attributed to modern humans, who arrived in Western Europe around 40,000 years ago. Ruth Blasco and colleagues discovered an abstract pattern engraved in the rock of Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar. The cross-hatched pattern was overlain by undisturbed sediment in which Neanderthal artifacts had previously been discovered, suggesting that the engraving pre-dated the 39,000-year-old artifacts.

Figure. Engraving from Gorham’s Cave.

Further geochemical analysis of the mineral coating on the engraved grooves suggests that the rock art was created before deposition of the overlying sediment. The authors, including two members of the Tracsymbols project -Francesco d’Errico and Alain Queffelec - took microphotographs of the tool marks within the engraving, compared the marks with experimental marks made with various tools, and determined that the abstract cave engraving was created intentionally by repeatedly passing a robust cutting tip over the rock in the same direction, and not by incidental cutting associated with other activities. The results add to evidence at other sites that Neanderthal intellectual capacity may have previously been underestimated.

Follow this link to download the 3D video of the engraving:

This link redirects to the Open Access article on the PNAS website: