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Why humans left their African homeland 80,000 years ago to colonize the world

By Guy Gugliotta
Smithsonian Magazine | Jessica Simpson Cash npCexh
166 15 5 26 1 3.4K

Seventy-seven thousand years ago, a craftsman sat in a cave in a limestone cliff overlooking the rocky coast of what is now the Indian Ocean. It was a beautiful spot, a workshop with a glorious natural picture window, cooled by a sea breeze in summer, warmed by a small fire in winter. The sandy cliff top above was covered with a white-flowering shrub that one distant day would be known as blombos and give this place the name Blombos Cave.

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The man picked up a piece of reddish brown stone about three inches long that he—or she, no one knows—had polished. With a stone point, he etched a geometric design in the flat surface—simple crosshatchings framed by two parallel lines with a third line down the middle.

Today the stone offers no clue to its original purpose. It could have been a religious object, an ornament or just an ancient doodle. But to see it is to immediately recognize it as something only a person could have made. Carving the stone was a very human thing to do.

The scratchings on this piece of red ocher mudstone are the oldest known example of an intricate design made by a human being. The ability to create and communicate using such symbols, says Christopher Henshilwood, leader of the team that discovered the stone, is “an unambiguous marker” of modern humans, one of the characteristics that separate us from any other species, living or extinct.

Spoons are commonly used to measure medicine for both adults and for children in their care, and their estimated use ranges from as high as 70%, [ Etro Ankle Wrap Espadrille VOQLEl
] to this study’s more conservative estimate of one in three people. This range is significant and the results of this study show that this overreliance on spoons—and the risk of dosage errors—could be reduced by more than 50% by simply changing the units of measurement given in dosing instructions from teaspoons to milliliters. It is important to note, however, that using milliliters may not be the only solution. Other dosing devices—such as oral medicine syringes and medicine droppers—could also be effective and should be tested on a more heterogeneous population sample.

In light of these results, the authors call upon the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry to stop using teaspoon units in dose recommendations. In the interim, and consistent with recommendations by safety organizations like the Institute for Safe Medication Practices ( LifeStride Samantha JiVXwVfcN
), doctors and pharmacists can advise patients and especially, caregivers of children, to use more accurate dosing devices such as cups, droppers and syringes.

An erratum to this article can be found at .

KvI wrote the paper and designed the study. BW analyzed the data, helped draft the manuscript, and provided access to participants. They shared equally in study design, data analysis and writing. They have had full access to this study’s data and take responsibility for its integrity and the accuracy of its analysis. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.


No external funding was used for this research.

Competing interests

The authors declare they have no competing interests.

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( Earth Ennis Earthies kKiK0
), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( ) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
Cornell University, Ithaca, USA
©van Ittersum and Wansink.2016

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