The announcement on Sept. 12 that Homo Sapiens’ earliest known drawing had been discovered in South Africa’s Blombos Cave was hailed as history-making.
It is also being viewed, to some degree, as evidence of an ancient hashtag.
The New York Times described the drawing as consisting of nine red lines on a stone flake the size of two thumbnails. Its estimated age is 73,000 years old, some 40,000 years older than the oldest previous drawings, which had been found in Europe.
History.com was the outlet that likened the drawing’s cross-hatched pattern to a modern hashtag. In reality Dr. Christopher Henshilwood, an archaeologist from the University of Bergen in Norway and lead author of the study, told the Times that the lines are “more than just random marks.”
“I think it’s definitely a symbol and there’s a message there,” he added.
The Times reported that Luca Pollarolo, a research fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, happened upon the flake while cleaning some artifacts excavated in 2011 from the cave, which is some 200 miles east of Capetown.
Pollarolo then reached out to Henshilwood, who with another Bergen archaeologist, Karen van Niekerk, concluded that the lines were made from red ocher, a natural pigment frequently used in prehistoric cave renderings. They also determined that the drawing was made by a member of our species.
Their finding was first published in Nature.
The Times further noted that the discoveries of humans’ oldest previous drawings had been made in caves in France, Spain, Namibia and Indonesia.