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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Oldest ritual not discovered

In 2006 an associate Professor announced the remarkable discovery of
evidence for ritual in Borswana 70,000 years ago. There was a great buzz
in the press for a short while, and it was embedded in various places
including Wikipedia. I noticed it last week and did a bit of research.
Here's what I wrote
In 2006 the site known as Rhino Cave became prominent in the media when
Sheila Coulson of the University of Oslo stated that 70,000-year-old
artifacts and a rock resembling a python's head representing the first
known human rituals had been discovered. She also backed her
interpretation of the site as a place of ritual based on other animals
portrayed: "In the cave, we find only the San people's three most
important animals: the python, the elephant, and the giraffe
Since then some of the archaeologists involved in the original
investigations of the site in 1995 and 1996 have challenged these
interpretations. They point out that the indentations (known by
archaeologists as cupules) described by Coulson do not necessarily all
date to the same period and that "many of the depressions are very fresh
while others are covered by a heavy patina." Other sites nearby (over 20)
also have depressions and do not represent animals. The Middle Stone Age
Radiocarbon dating|radiocarbon and thermoluminescence dating for this site
does not support the 70,000 year figure, suggesting much more recent
Discussing the painting, the archaeologists say that the painting
described as an elephant is actually a rhino, that the red painting of a
giraffe is no older than 400 AD and that the white painting of the rhino
is more recent, and that experts in rock art believe the red and white
paintings are by different groups. They refer to Coulson's interpretation
as a projection of modern beliefs on to the past and call Coulson's
interpretation a composite story that is "flatout misleading". They
respond to Coulson's statement that these are the only paintings in the
cave by saying that she has ignored red geometric paintings found on the
cave wall.
They also discuss the burned Middle Stone Age points, saying that there is
nothing unusual in using nonlocal materials. They dismiss the claim that
no ordinary tools were found at the site, noting that the many scrapers
that are found are ordinary tools and that there is evidence of tool
making at the site. Discussing the 'secret chamber', they point to the
lack of evidence for San shamans using chambers in caves or for this one
to have been used in such a way.
World's Oldest Ritual Site? The "Python Cave" at Tsodilo Hills World
Heritage Site, Botswan NYAME AKUMA, the Bulletin of the Society of
Africanist Archaeologists2007
Doug Weller --
A Director and Moderator of The Hall of Ma'at
Doug's Archaeology Site:
Amun - co-owner/co-moderator

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