33,000 year old Social Network


We are social creatures. The popularity of social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have shown how much we want to show off and share with others. We aren’t the first to do this though, as new research has uncovered a social network in Lesotho from 33,000 years ago.

Researchers were initially puzzled when they found prehistoric ornamental necklace beads made of ostrich eggs, around 1,000 km from the nearest ostriches. So how did they get there?

33,000 years ago, humans lived in tribal communities. It was important for them to maintain a relationship with their neighbours; this was a lifeline in the event of a drought or food shortage where they could relocate to their neighbour’s territory or trade resources. In order to establish these bonds, ‘gifts’ were exchanged; in this case the necklace beads. The array of beads around their necks allowed our ancestors to boast about their social connections, much like how today we boast of our number of Instagram followers.

These exchanges still happen today: the hunter-gatherer cultures of the Kalahari Desert still use ostrich egg beads to kindle and maintain relationships.


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Science Editor | 19-20

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