One of the Earliest Uses of Symbols by Humans Discovered in Israel

February 11, 2021 | Times of Israel
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A group of French and Israeli archaeologists have identified six lines carved in 120,000-year-old bone fragments that, they are convinced, were the deliberate work of humans, as the Times of Israel reports:

The bone fragment, found recently during an excavation near the city of Ramle, has six similar etchings on one side of the bone. . . . “It is fair to say that we have discovered one of the oldest symbolic engravings ever found on earth, and certainly the oldest in the Levant,” said Yossi Zaidner of the Institute of Archeology at Hebrew University. “This discovery has very important implications for understanding of how symbolic expression developed in humans.”

Scientists have long surmised that etchings on stones and bones have been used as a form of symbolism dating back as early as the Middle Paleolithic period (250,000-45,000 BCE), but findings to support that theory are extremely rare. Only five similar findings have been found in the Levant.

Given their likely deliberate nature, the researchers concluded that the symbols must have had meaning. . . . While they can’t tell exactly what the carvings symbolized, they believe that the bone—from an aurochs, a now-extinct species of large wild cattle—was deliberately chosen. “We hypothesize that the choice of this particular bone was related to the status of that animal in that hunting community and is indicative of the spiritual connection that the hunters had with the animals they killed,” [they wrote].

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