Scientists said on Thursday that they have discovered humanity's oldest known drawing on a small fragment of rock in Cape Town, South Africa, according to Science Alert report published on September 12.
The drawing is about 73,000 years old and shows cross-hatch lines sketched onto stone with red ochre pigment.
It consists of a handful of intersecting red lines on the side of a flake of stone - think the ubiquitous 'hashtag' symbol, also known as an octothorpe.
Anthropologists have been digging around in Blombos Cave since the early 1990s, uncovering bones, shell beads, pieces of ochre and other small stones engraved with parallel and zig-zagging lines.
The sediment in the cave represents 100,000 years of history, meaning those who inscribed the lines existed at a time when modern human culture – consisting of art and complex social ritual – was thought to be emerging.
Older human-scratched objects exist, dating as far back as 300,000 years.
But unlike the multitude of engraved items in Blombos Cave, there just isn't enough detail to really get insight into the artist's intentions, leaving it open to debate whether those really ancient lines represent true art or incidental handiwork.
Blombos Cave's etchings are therefore considered to be the oldest examples of symbolic marks, scratched with purpose and meaning. Not that we know what that meaning was at all.
Yet they were all made roughly the same way, by gouging out thin lines of material with a harder object.
With the discovery of a single wedge of sandstone held together by silica – a rock known as silcrete – this all changed.