English
 
Help Privacy Policy Disclaimer
  Advanced SearchBrowse

Item

ITEM ACTIONSEXPORT

Released

Journal Article

Ostrich eggshell beads reveal 50,000-year-old social network in Africa

MPS-Authors
/persons/resource/persons243232

Miller,  Jennifer M.
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

/persons/resource/persons241972

Wang,  Yiming
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

External Resource

Supplementary Information
(Supplementary material)

Reporting Summary
(Supplementary material)

Supplementary Table 1
(Supplementary material)

Fulltext (public)

shh3115.pdf
(Publisher version), 6MB

Supplementary Material (public)
There is no public supplementary material available
Citation

Miller, J. M., & Wang, Y. (2021). Ostrich eggshell beads reveal 50,000-year-old social network in Africa. Nature, s41586-021-04227-2. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04227-2.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-BB40-C
Abstract
Humans evolved in a patchwork of semi-connected populations across Africa1,2; understanding when and how these groups connected is critical to interpreting our present-day biological and cultural diversity. Genetic analyses reveal that eastern and southern African lineages diverged sometime in the Pleistocene epoch, approximately 350–70 thousand years ago (ka)3,4; however, little is known about the exact timing of these interactions, the cultural context of these exchanges or the mechanisms that drove their separation. Here we compare ostrich eggshell bead variations between eastern and southern Africa to explore population dynamics over the past 50,000 years. We found that ostrich eggshell bead technology probably originated in eastern Africa and spread southward approximately 50–33 ka via a regional network. This connection breaks down approximately 33 ka, with populations remaining isolated until herders entered southern Africa after 2 ka. The timing of this disconnection broadly corresponds with the southward shift of the Intertropical Convergence Zone, which caused periodic flooding of the Zambezi River catchment (an area that connects eastern and southern Africa). This suggests that climate exerted some influence in shaping human social contact. Our study implies a later regional divergence than predicted by genetic analyses, identifies an approximately 3,000-kilometre stylistic connection and offers important new insights into the social dimension of ancient interactions.