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Scientists discover drastic climate changes during ancient times in 8,000-year-old cave art

Yet another ancient recorded history by humans has been discovered in the caves of South America and it is the oldest known cave art in the region.

Scientists discover drastic climate changes during ancient times in 8,000-year-old cave art
Cover Image Source: Facebook | Science Advance

Our world harbors astonishing human creations, long buried by time, now unearthed and decoded by the wonders of modern science. Cave art is one such wonder that helps us to know more about the ancient human population and their lifestyle. These old etchings have remained preserved on the rocky walls unless someone has been able to break down the scientific mysteries surrounding them just like cave art, recording human handprints, various activities and rituals, a research team stumbled upon a cave in Patagonia, South America, covered in 895 distinct paintings.


A study published in Science reveals that carbon dating pegs the age of etchings in Argentina's Cueva Huenul 1 (CH1) at 8,200 years, marking them as the region's oldest known cave art. The CH1 has been under study for almost a decade as of 2024 when experts were able to identify 446 distinct groupings of individual drawings. Researchers also discovered various ancient artwork beads made from shells, decorated animal bones and engraved gourds. These evidences indicate some of the earliest human settlements in South America, which date back to 12,000 years ago.

Scientists were eager to determine the exact date of the cave paintings, so they tested the charcoal found in some of those etchings, specifically from "comb" shaped black sketches, which were found frequently in many of those drawings. They used accelerator mass spectrometry on the residual carbon in the organic material found in the drawings. By using radiocarbon dating which is based on the radioactive decay's regular timeline, the scientists were able to date the charcoal and used multiple samples for accuracy as well.


The results derived from the experiment showed that the charcoal was 8,171 years old. But not every other etching found in the cave was created around the same period, as researchers believe that over 130 generations of ancient civilization were responsible for the elaborate artwork found in Patagonia that includes abstract figures, humans and animals. The research also stated that at the time of the oldest rock art, a "thinly distributed and highly mobile hunter-gatherer population" inhabited the area. The climate of the region was also arid.

β€œIn our rock art case, the evidence from the drylands in South America shows that during the early part of the Mid-Holocene (approximately 10,000 to 7,000 years before the present), populations did not grow and may have decreased in size,” Ramiro Barberena, paper-co-author, remarked to Hyperallergic. "There was likely periodic population crashes rather than long-term stability. Additionally, since the sites from the mid-Holocene do not show very intense occupations, we presume that these small human groups had to move in wider areas.” The study on the Patagonia cave arts continues and there is still a lot left to learn about the early inhabitants of the region.

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Scientific research never stops prodding into human history and that is how they also discovered the origins of the first shoes a while back. According to Ichnos, scientists found compelling evidence that suggests that the use of artificial soles for walking dates back approximately 148,000 years ago. Specifically, three sites in South Africa, which contain footprints from early human ancestors, exhibit distinct signs of footwear. Scientists are actively developing methods to identify tracks made by early humans wearing shoes. It marks just the beginning of the investigation into the origins of footwear.


The Victoria and Albert Museum houses an epic collection of over 2,000 pairs of shoes, spanning over 3,000 years of history and originating from various cultures worldwide. Based on this resource, a chronological overview of the evolution of shoe design is presented. It encompasses everything from the ornate stitching of hemp shoes discovered on the ancient Silk Road dating back to the first century BCE to the iconic Venetian platform shoes commonly seen in the 16th century. This historical progression in shoe height, heel shapes and materials reveals the cyclical nature of fashion across centuries, highlighting that many styles we consider modern have had their moments in history.

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