Editor's Summary

18 October 2007

Life was a beach

It's been suggested that the first thing Homo sapiens did once he and she had evolved was head for the beach. This is demonstrated in dramatic fashion by a series of discoveries in Middle Pleistocene sediments from a South African sea cave near Pinnacle Point. The finds suggest that by around 164,000 years ago, the residents were on a diet that included shellfish — the earliest evidence for the exploitation of coastal resources by some 40,000 years. There is also evidence that they used pigments such as red ochre for symbolic behaviour. This was at a time when the world was going through a cool, dry spell, and Africa was mostly desert. Perhaps this environmental stress drove small bands of hunter–gatherers down to the sea in search of new food sources and lifestyles.

News and ViewsPalaeoanthropology: The coast in colour

A South African cave overlooking the Indian Ocean was apparently a desirable residence for early humans. The site has provided rich evidence for the early use of colour and marine resources.

Sally McBrearty & Chris Stringer


LetterEarly human use of marine resources and pigment in South Africa during the Middle Pleistocene

Curtis W. Marean, Miryam Bar-Matthews, Jocelyn Bernatchez, Erich Fisher, Paul Goldberg, Andy I. R. Herries, Zenobia Jacobs, Antonieta Jerardino, Panagiotis Karkanas, Tom Minichillo, Peter J. Nilssen, Erin Thompson, Ian Watts & Hope M. Williams