32 – Coastal foraging at Pinnacle Point, South Africa
164,000 years ago
In caves at a site in South Africa called Pinnacle Point, archaeological excavations have revealed accumulations of shells that suggest humans were harvesting shellfish as far back as 164,000 years ago. More importantly, the shells are evidence that these early modern humans understood the coastal tides to be able to harvest a reliable source of food from the sea—mussels, limpets, and sea snails—during a dry geological period where the abundance of land animals may have been reduced. Shellfish are also a high-quality source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which is essential for brain development. In addition, many small shells show evidence of small holes, which could have been used for stringing together for adornment or trading, and others show signs of red ochre, which may have been used for ritual painting.
Image credit SACP4.
Environmental and Climate Changes
Earth’s climate remains relatively stable with alternating glacial and interglacial periods