Homo erectus

05 December 2014: Graffiti – a primate thing

earliest graffiti

Photo: Wim Lustenhouwer, VU University Amsterdam

What had up to now been the most ancient example of graffiti, at a respectable 100,000 years old, has just been royally trumped.

Published in science journal Nature on 3 December was the announcement by a group of scientists led by José Joordens from Leiden University in the Netherlands that a sea shell had been discovered with etchings that go back around 500,000 years.

Not only does this push the graffiti timeline back by a factor of five, it also means the rough etching wasn’t made by a member of our species.

The artist in this case almost certainly belonged to Homo erectus, which says a great deal about how deeply ingrained is the hominin need to create art.

Go here to get the story from Dr Joordens herself, who point out the contribution made by Dr Stephen Munro, a biological anthropologist from the ANU.