How Early Africans in the Kalahari Desert Used Ostrich Eggshells to Store Water 105,000 Years Ago
Ga-Mohana Hill in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa is known today as the spiritual site of the local communities living on the edge of the mountainous region. However, archaeological finds reveal that it was the cradle of early human innovation in South Africa when the Kalahari Desert saw more rainfall and had a long expanse of vegetation cover.
The early men who lived on the edge of the Ga-Mohana hill used ostrich eggshells to store water harvested from the rains for later use. Scientific analysis of the age of 22 white calcite crystals and ostrich eggshell fragments excavated by researchers from the hill showed them to be 105,000 years old.
The possible reality inferred from the location of the eggshells and crystals suggests that before local communities made the rock shelter a sacred site, the area held spiritual significance to the early humans who resided there.
Researchers said crystals and ostrich eggshell fragments they excavated compared to what local communities used in their religious rituals showed the artifacts were much older than what lay around . The researchers said their analysis also suggests that early humans were deliberate in their collection of crystals and ostrich eggshells and possibly had strong spiritual relevance to their very existence.
Dr Sechaba Maape, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand, said the fragments found at the site give meaning to the cultural or spiritual practice of early humans. He said he didn’t find it surprising that local communities continue to use the site for spiritual purposes today.
He explained that analysis by the OSL laboratory of the University of Innsbruck’s geology department enabled the team to determine the age of ostrich eggshells at the site. OSL Laboratory Director Dr. Michael Meyer said they relied on the natural light signals that accumulate over a period of time in sedimentary quartz to determine the age of these sedimentary fragments.
He explained that the technology divides the particles into time slices synonymous with the functioning of the clock, which allows researchers to determine the age of the layers. The researchers pointed out that the findings also give an idea of the weather conditions that prevailed in the region 100,000 years ago.
It is not surprising that the name Kalahari comes from the Tswana word Kgala translated as great thirst. Although the area is a desert and experiences seasonal rainfall, the excavated fragments indicate that Ga-Mohana hill witnessed heavy rainfall in ancient times. Director of the Human Evolution Research Institute (HERI) at the University of Cape Town, Dr Robyn Pickering, said this was an indication that life was thriving in the Kalahari Desert where early humans settled. engaged in agriculture and life.
Further analysis of ostrich eggshells and crystal fragments matches evidence of human existence between 110,000 and 100,000 years ago. The researchers say they are unable to dig deeper into the spiritual relevance of the site due to what the place means to local communities. Further excavation would be tantamount to disturbing the very place that people cherish.
The findings, the researchers say, underscore the fact that places that were deserted in modern times interacted with each other and were vibrant regions of trade and human activity. They indicated that these commitments may have extended to those who lived in the coastal regions of South Africa and influenced what was produced in the Kalahari Desert in other regions.
They said the results give an idea of a well-organized people who have preserved their cultural rights. Researchers hope Ga-Mohana Hill will continue to provide them with information about the behavior and cultural practices of the early humans who lived here.