World’s oldest ritual found

Researchers have made a startling archaeological discovery, which has thrown fresh light on how earlier did man start performing rituals.

In her study, Associate Professor Sheila Coulson from the University of Oslo, found that modern humans, Homo sapiens, performed advanced rituals in Africa for 70,000 years, 30,000 years than what was earlier believed. Professor Coulson made the discovery while studying the origin of the Sanpeople, in the sparsely inhabited area of north-western Botswana known as Ngamiland.

Searching for artefacts from the Middle Stone Age in the only hills present for hundreds of kilometres in any direction, she found the small peaks within the Kalahari Desert, known as the Tsodilo Hills. The hills are famous for having the largest concentration of rock paintings in the world. "The Tsodilo Hills are still a sacred place for the San, who call them the ‘Mountains of the Gods’ and the ‘Rock that Whispers’.

The python is one of the San’s most important animals. According to their creation myth, mankind descended from the python and the ancient, arid streambeds around the hills are said to have been created by the python as it circled the hills in its ceaseless search for water," said Professor Coulson.

Findings further revealed that people from the area had a specific ritual location associated with the python. The ritual was held in a little cave on the northern side of the Tsodilo Hills.

"The cave itself is so secluded and access to it is so difficult that it was not even discovered by archaeologists until the 1990s," she said.

Upon entering the cave, Professor Coulson and her team found that the mysterious rock resembled the head of a huge python.

"On the six-metre-long by two-metre-tall rock, we found 300-400 indentations that could only have been man-made. You could see the mouth and eyes of the snake. It looked like a real python. The play of sunlight over the indentations gave them the appearance of snakeskin. At night, the firelight gave one the feeling that the snake was actually moving," she said.

"Our find means that humans were more organised and had the capacity for abstract thinking at a much earlier point in history than we have previously assumed. All of the indications suggest that Tsodilo has been known to mankind for almost 100,000 years as a very special place in the pre-historic landscape," she added. — ANI