CAIRO – 23 December 2021: Researchers have discovered an ornament with nearly identical shapes made from the shells of ostrich eggs in eastern and southern Africa dating back more than 50,000 years.
The trinkets were discovered over an area of about 1,800 miles indicating a social network connecting Stone Age peoples across the continent, which makes it the "world's oldest social network" connecting different cultures according to a team from the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
In addition to being part of a cultural exchange, it is the oldest fully manufactured jewelry in the world, with humans turning the shells into a raw material for making beads, according to the British Daily Mail.
Different prehistoric cultures produced different types of beads, which gave researchers a way to trace the connections between these different groups.
It took anthropologists more than a decade to create the world's largest database of ostrich eggshell beads. Their database included 1,500 beads from the past 50,000 years, discovered at 31 sites across southern and eastern Africa.
By comparing the diameter and thickness of the shell of the beads they found that people in ancient times used almost identical beads.
Humans are social creatures, but little is known about when, how and why different populations are linked, according to study lead author Jennifer Miller.
"Answering these questions is critical to explaining the biological and cultural diversity we see in humans today," said Miller.
While DNA is a powerful tool for understanding genetic interactions between groups of humans, it does not offer a way to understand cultural exchanges in ancient societies.