A new study by an international team of researchers from France, South Africa, Germany, Israel and the UK has confirmed that 80,000-year-old shell beads found in caves in North Africa represent some of the earliest evidence of the use of personal ornamentation.
The new research shows the shell beads were common across North Africa until they fell out of use around 70,000 years ago. Previously, the shells were known from only a few scattered examples. ‘We are no longer looking at isolated or one off events.’ says Professor Nick Barton of the University of Oxford, one of the authors of the study. ‘We can now document the shells at a number of different locations in North Africa all of about the same age’ he adds.