Some of the world’s oldest personal ornaments have been discovered in North Africa.

Archaeologists have unearthed 33 shell seeds dating between 142,000 and 150,000 years old in southeastern Morocco’s Bizmoune cave.

Each bead measures about half-an-inch long and was crafted from sea snail shells. Each sphere has drilled holes in the center, indicating they could have been hung by strings or cloth.

Researchers comprehensively studied the beads through uranium dating. El Mehdi Sehasseh, a graduate student at Rabat’s National Institute of Heritage and Archaeological Sciences, led the effort.

Steven L. Kuhn, on the other hand, led the paleontology team. The anthropology professor at the University of Arizona’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences suspects the jewelry was used for more than decoration.

“They were probably part of the way people expressed their identity with their clothing,” he said in a statement. “They are the tip of the iceberg for that kind of human trait. They show that it was present even hundreds of thousands of years ago, and that humans were interested in communicating to bigger groups of people than their immediate friends and family.”

These beads might also help nomads and other indigenous peoples in the region in expressing ethnicity.

“We do not know what they mean but they are clearly symbolic objects deployed in a way that other people could see them,” Kuhn said.

Sign up to receive our latest news!

By submitting this form, I agree to the terms.