World’s oldest art is in Africa, not Europe | Letters

Didn’t you report 2002 that two tiny pieces of engraved ochre found in Blombos Cave in South Africa were the oldest works of art ever discovered, writes John Picton

Given all the recent publicity about the attribution of European cave paintings to Neanderthal artists at an earlier date than expected for Homo sapiens (Neanderthals were artists 65,000 years ago, 23 February), it is a pity the Guardian does not recall its own previous headlines. In an article 16 years ago (World’s first artwork found in Africa, 11 January 2002) you said: “Two tiny pieces of engraved ochre are the oldest works of art ever discovered, scientists say, showing the artist in mankind was awakened, in Africa at least 77,000 years ago. Found in Blombos Cave in South Africa, the pieces are carved with a pattern of crossed lines, showing that humans had a capacity for abstract thought, and use of symbols, tens of thousands of years before they spread from Africa to Europe.” Homo sapiens was always ahead of the game!
John Picton
Evesham, Worcestershire

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