Early Modern Humans and the Ocean

Oct 28 2011

Scientists estimate that the first modern humans (Homo sapiens) appeared in Africa some time between 200 and 100 thousand years ago. It is likely that humans did not fish for thousands of years because they lacked the knowledge of how to utilize the ocean’s resources. However, researchers have found edible shellfish remains dating back to 165 thousand years ago in a cave at Pinnacle Point, on the south coast of South Africa (pictured to the right). This evidence suggests that early humans began to include marine resources as part of their diet some 165 thousand years ago and that shellfish was the first seafood ever eaten! A shellfish diet was crucial in sustaining these human populations as they traveled along the coast. 

At around this same time (165,000 years ago), early humans also began producing bladelet stone tool technology and using pigment for symbolic behavior which suggests the presence of modern language. Using the coastline as a migration route, they would have been able to spread language, tools, and culture to other regions. The survival of early modern humans greatly depended on coastal habitats due to harsh environmental conditions elsewhere.  Africa was either dry or mostly desert while the rest of the world was going through a glacial period 125,000 to 195,000 years ago. For these reasons, some scientists attribute the spread of modern civilization to these coastal group of humans in South Africa.                                                                                                      


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