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Human Uniqueness Compared to "Great Apes": 
Absolute Difference
MOCA Domain: 
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In addition to adorning their bodies in one manner or another, all or nearly all peoples produce other forms of decorative art, typically in local or regional styles. These practices are very ancient among humans, as shown by archaeologically retrieved materials, objects, and cave- or rock-paintings. Symmetry of decoration is very widespread if not universal. Some handaxes, dated as early as 1,600k BP, but more definitely after 500k to 400k BP, are so exquisitely crafted and symmetrical, as well as being too large or small to suggest utilitarian purposes, that they strongly suggest developing sense of aesthetic value. Moreover, some of these axes show no sign of use. Some archaeologists suggest that, like peacock tails, these exhibitions of craft skill were means for males to advertise their fitness. The use of red ochre dates to 100k BP; apparently decorative geometric patterns from southern Africa date to 75k BP; sculpted figures from Germany date to between 38 and 32k BP; and the oldest figurative cave paintings, in southern France, date to 32k BP. Although not common, self-decoration occurs among some primates both in captivity and in the field. 




Timing of appearance of the difference in the Hominin Lineage as a defined date or a lineage separation event. The point in time associated with lineage separation events may change in the future as the scientific community agrees upon better time estimates. Lineage separation events are defined in 2017 as:

  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and old world monkeys was 25,000 - 30,000 thousand (25 - 30 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and chimpanzees was 6,000 - 8,000 thousand (6 - 8 million) years ago
  • the emergence of the genus Homo was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago
  • the Last Common Ancestor (LCA) of humans and neanderthals was 500 thousand years ago
  • the common ancestor of modern humans was 100 - 300 thousand years ago

Possible Appearance: 
1,600 thousand years ago
Probable Appearance: 
500 thousand years ago
Definite Appearance: 
100 thousand years ago


  1. An Upper Palaeolithic Proto-writing System and Phenological Calendar, Bacon, Bennett, Khatiri Azadeh, Palmer James, Freeth Tony, Pettitt Paul, and Kentridge Robert , Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 2023, p.1-19, (2023)
  2. Earliest parietal art: hominin hand and foot traces from the middle Pleistocene of Tibet, Zhang, David D., Bennett Matthew R., Cheng Hai, Wang Leibin, Zhang Haiwei, Reynolds Sally C., Zhang Shengda, Wang Xiaoqing, Li Teng, Urban Tommy, et al. , Science Bulletin, 2021/09/10/, (2021)
  3. Oldest cave art found in Sulawesi, Brumm, Adam, Oktaviana Adhi Agus, Burhan Basran, Hakim Budianto, Lebe Rustan, Zhao Jian-xin, Sulistyarto Priyatno Hadi, Ririmasse Marlon, Adhityatama Shinatria, Sumantri Iwan, et al. , Science Advances, 2021/01/01, Volume 7, Issue 3, p.eabd4648, (2021)
  4. The symbolic role of the underground world among Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals, Martí, Africa Pitarch, Zilhao Joao, d’Errico Francesco, Cantalejo-Duarte Pedro, Domínguez-Bella Salvador, Fullola Josep M., Weniger Gerd C., and Ramos-Muñoz José , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021/08/17, Volume 118, Issue 33, p.e2021495118, (2021)
  5. Marks, Pictures and Art: Their Contribution to Revolutions in Communication, Davidson, Iain , Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 2020/07/27, Volume 27, Issue 3, p.745–770, (2020)
  6. Neuroimaging supports the representational nature of the earliest human engravings, E., Mellet, M. Salagnon, A. Majkić, S. Cremona, M. Joliot, G. Jobard, B. Mazoyer, N. Tzourio Mazoyer, and F. d'Errico , Royal Society Open Science, Volume 6, Issue 7, p.190086, (2019)
  7. Cross-Modality Information Transfer: A Hypothesis about the Relationship among Prehistoric Cave Paintings, Symbolic Thinking, and the Emergence of Language, Miyagawa, Shigeru, Lesure Cora, and Nóbrega Vitor A. , Frontiers in Psychology, 02/2018, Volume 9, p.115, (2018)
  8. Palaeolithic cave art in Borneo, Aubert, M., Setiawan P., Oktaviana A. A., Brumm A., Sulistyarto P. H., Saptomo E. W., Istiawan B., Ma’rifat T. A., Wahyuono V. N., Atmoko F. T., et al. , Nature, 2018/11/07, (2018)
  9. Evidence for Neandertal jewelry: modified white-tailed eagle claws at Krapina., Radovcic, Davorka, Sršen Ankica Oros, Radovčić Jakov, and Frayer David W. , PLoS One, 2015, Volume 10, Issue 3, p.e0119802, (2015)
  10. Ornaments reveal resistance of North European cultures to the spread of farming., Rigaud, Solange, D'Errico Francesco, and Vanhaeren Marian , PLoS One, 2015, Volume 10, Issue 4, p.e0121166, (2015)
  11. A rock engraving made by Neanderthals in Gibraltar., Rodríguez-Vidal, Joaquín, D'Errico Francesco, Pacheco Francisco Giles, Blasco Ruth, Rosell Jordi, Jennings Richard P., Queffelec Alain, Finlayson Geraldine, Fa Darren A., López José María Gut, et al. , Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2014 Sep 16, Volume 111, Issue 37, p.13301-6, (2014)
  12. Pleistocene cave art from Sulawesi, Indonesia., Aubert, M, Brumm A, Ramli M, Sutikna T, Saptomo E W., Hakim B, Morwood M J., van den Bergh G D., Kinsley L, and Dosseto A , Nature, 2014 Oct 9, Volume 514, Issue 7521, p.223-7, (2014)
  13. Running Through a Field: Performance and Humanness, Whelan, Greg , Performance Research, (2012)