People living on the Israeli coast 120,000 years ago strung ocher-painted seashells on flax string, according to a recent study in which archaeologists examined microscopic traces of wear inside naturally occurring holes in the shells. That may shed some light on when people first invented string—which hints at the invention of things like clothes, fishing nets, and maybe even seafaring.
Seashells by the seashore
Picking up seashells has been a human habit for almost as long as there have been humans. Archaeologists found clam shells mingled with other artifacts in Israel’s Misliya Cave, buried in sediment layers dating from 240,000 to 160,000 years ago. The shells clearly weren’t the remains of Paleolithic seafood dinners; their battered condition meant they’d washed ashore after their former occupants had died.
For some reason, ancient people picked them up and took them home.