Early Middle Stone Age personal ornaments from Bizmoune Cave, Essaouira, Morocco

El Mehdi Sehasseh, Philippe Fernandez, Steven Kuhn, Mary Stiner, Susan Mentzer, Debra Colarossi, Amy Clark, François Lanoe, Matthew Pailes, Dirk Hoffmann, Alexa Benson, Edward Rhodes, Moncef Benmansour, Abdelmoughit Laissaoui, Ismail Ziani, Paloma Vidal-matutano, Jacob Morales, Youssef Djellal, Benoit Longet, Jean-jacques HublinMohammed Mouhiddine, Fatima-zohra Rafi, Kayla Beth Worthey, Ismael Sanchez-morales, Noufel Ghayati, Abdeljalil Bouzouggar

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Ornaments such as beads are among the earliest signs of symbolic behavior among human ancestors. Their appearance signals important developments in both cognition and social relations. This paper describes and presents contextual information for 33 shell beads from Bizmoune Cave (southwest Morocco). Many of the beads come as deposits dating to ≥142 thousand years, making them the oldest shell beads yet recovered. They extend the dates for the first appearance of this behavior into the late Middle Pleistocene. The ages and ubiquity of beads in Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites in North Africa provide further evidence of the potential importance of these artifacts as signals of identity. The early and continued use of Tritia gibbosula and other material culture traits also suggest a remarkable degree of cultural continuity among early MSA Homo sapiens groups across North Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabi8620
Number of pages10
JournalScience Advances
Issue number39
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


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