August 28, 2009

Ancient beads discovered in Morocco

Twenty-five shell beads excavated in Morocco suggest people were wearing and possibly trading jewelry 80,000 years ago, archaeologists said.

The beads found at four sites in Morocco are similar to beads found previously in Algeria, Israel and South Africa, the European Science Foundation reported Friday.

The Moroccan shells have holes drilled through the center and some have signs of pigmentation and prolonged wear, said Francesco d'Errico, a director at the French National Center for Scientific Research.

Either people went to sea and collected them, or more likely marine shell beads helped create and maintain exchange networks between coastal and inland peoples, d'Errico said.

The beads provide clues to innovative behavior as early humans spread their cultures beyond Africa, d'Errico said.

The early invention of the personal ornament is one of the most fascinating cultural experiments in human history, he said.