Gallery: Discovery of 100,000-Year-Old Toolkits

Abalone Shell

An abalone shell used as a 100,000-year-old mixing bowl

(Image credit: Science/AAAS)

Archaeologists in South Africa uncovered two 100,000-year-old abalone shells and assorted bones and stones that served a toolkits to make some sort of ochre-based compound. The mixture may have been used as a paint or adhesive. It's the oldest evidence of humans making a complex compound, and even the oldest evidence of humans using containers. [Read the full story]

South Africa Coastline

Blombos Cave in South Africa contains 100,000-year-old artifacts

(Image credit: Magnus Haaland)

The South African coastline along the Indian Ocean. The white arrow points to the entrance to Blombos Cave, the ancient paint-making studio.

Blombos Cave

Blombos Cave in South Africa contains 100,000-year-old artifacts

(Image credit: Magnus Haaland)

The entrance to Blombos Cave, indicated by the white arrow, about 180 miles (300 kilometers) east of Cape Town.

Cave Entrance

Blombos Cave in South Africa contains 100,000-year-old artifacts

(Image credit: Magnus Haaland)

The entrance to Blombos Cave. The cave has been under excavation since 1992.

Panorama

Blombos Cave in South Africa contains 100,000-year-old artifacts

(Image credit: Magnus Haaland)

A panoramic view of the inside of Blombos Cave. Excavations are taking place to the left.

Discovery

Archaeologists excavate Blombos Cave.

(Image credit: Science/AAAS)

The excavation site at the time when the 100,000-year-old toolkits were uncovered. Archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood is on the right, and Grethe Pederson is in the foreground.

Excavated Shell

100,000-year-old paint-making kit found in Blombos Cave.

(Image credit: Science/AAAS)

A partially-excavated abalone shell with tell-tale red ochre marks. The shell was used as a mixing bowl for an ancient compound.

Shell Toolkit

100,000-year-old paint-making kit found in Blombos Cave.

(Image credit: Science/AAAS)

The other abalone toolkit under excavation.

Archaeologist Works

100,000-year-old paint-making kit found in Blombos Cave.

(Image credit: Science/AAAS)

Christopher Henshilwood excavates the 100,000-year-old layers of sediment where the abalone shells were found.

Painstaking Excavations

100,000-year-old paint-making kit found in Blombos Cave.

(Image credit: Science/AAAS)

Excavating the shells was a careful process that took many days.

Removing a Toolkit

100,000-year-old paint-making kit found in Blombos Cave.

(Image credit: Grethe Moell Pederson)

Karen van Niekerk carefully removes an abalone toolkit from the spot where it has been resting for 100,000 years.