Oldest jewelry in the world discovered in Morocco

Humans have been expressing themselves through the symbolic use of seashells for thousands of years. This discovery is the oldest example of this type of display.

A police officer stands near a Moroccan national flag near the main stadium during preparations for the FIFA Club World Cup in Agadir, December 10, 2013. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMR ABDALLAH DALSH)
A police officer stands near a Moroccan national flag near the main stadium during preparations for the FIFA Club World Cup in Agadir, December 10, 2013.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMR ABDALLAH DALSH)

The oldest jewelry ever found has been discovered by Archaeologists in Bizmoune Cave in Morocco and they published their findings on Wednesday in Science Advances.

The jewelry, shell beads determined to be between 142,000 and 150,000 years old, was discovered by a team including professor of anthropology Steven L. Kuhn from the University of Arizona (UA) College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Francois Lanoe of the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, Regents Professor of Anthropology Mary Stiner and doctoral students Kayla Worthey and Ismael Sanchez-Morales.

"Humans have been expressing themselves through the symbolic use of seashells for thousands of years. This discovery is the oldest example of this type of human expression. It has broad implications for anthropologists' understanding of human evolution and development," a statement from UA cited Kuhn as saying.

Kuhn discussed some of these implications, saying, "[The shells] were probably part of the way people expressed their identity with their clothing. They're the tip of the iceberg for that kind of human trait. They show that it was present even hundreds of thousands of years ago and that humans were interested in communicating to bigger groups of people than their immediate friends and family," according to the statement.

A general view shows the ancient city of Fez, Morocco October 17, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/SHEREEN TALAAT)A general view shows the ancient city of Fez, Morocco October 17, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/SHEREEN TALAAT)

Because written languages are only several thousand years old, the beads are invaluable to archaeologists researching evolution and cognitive development, with Kuhn describing them as "essentially a fossilized form of basic communication," according to UA.

Kuhn added that the durability of the beads may suggest those who made them were trying to convey a "more permanent" message than one that could be expressed by other means available at the time, such as body paint.