The Makapansgat pebble (ca. 3,000,000 BP) is a 260-gram reddish-brown jasperite 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, associated with the bones of Australopithecus africanus in a cave in Makapansgat, South Africa.[1] Though it is definitely not a manufactured object, it has been suggested that some australopithecine 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 the cave. This would make it a candidate for the oldest known manuport.[2]

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.[3][4]

The Makapansgat pebble cannot be seen as art if a usual definition of the term is used, as the object was found and not made. Nevertheless that an Australopithecus may have recognized a face would reveal that the early hominid had some sort of capacity for symbolic thinking, necessary for the development of art and language.[1] It is not known if the early hominid has seen this object really as a face, or had magical speculations towards this object or just enjoyed the pebble remains unclear.

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  1. ^ a b Kleiner, Fred S. (2011). Gardner's Art Through the Ages: A Global History (Enhanced Thirteenth ed.). Boston: Wadsworth. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-0-495-79986-3.
  2. ^ Bednarik, Robert G. "Makapansgat cobble analysed". University of Melbourne. Archived from the original on 2003-03-30. Retrieved 2010-05-14. Archived by the Internet Archive, original URI was {{cite web|url= |title=Archived copy |accessdate=2010-05-14 |url-status=dead |archiveurl= |archivedate=2003-03-30 }}
  3. ^ OriginsNet: Pebble of many faces
  4. ^ Dart, R.A. (1974): The waterworn australopithecine pebble of many faces from Makapansgat. South African Journal of Science 70: 167-169.

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