The Makapansgat pebble, or the pebble of many faces, is a 260-gramjasperite cobble with natural chipping and wear patterns that make it look like a crude rendition of a human face. The pebble is interesting in that it was found some distance from any possible natural source, in the context of Australopithecus africanus remains in South Africa. Though it is definitely not a manufactured object, it has been suggested that some australopithecine, or possibly another hominid, might have recognized it as a symbolic face, in possibly the earliest example of symbolic thinking or aesthetic sense in the human heritage, and brought the pebble back to camp, which would make it a candidate for the oldest known manuport at between 2.5 and 2.9 million years ago.
The teacher Wilfred I. Eizman found it in the Makapansgat, a dolerite cave in the Makapan Valley north of Mokopane, Limpopo, South Africa in 1925. Almost 50 years later, Raymond Dart was the first to describe it in 1974.
Image ID: 013061
Description: Three-million-year-old Makapansgat Pebble from South Africa. Perhaps the most ancient art object in the world. It is said to have been carried over a distance of four kilometers by Australopithecus.
- Collection: Anthropology
- Category: Tools and Artifacts
Credit: © The Natural History Museum, London