Lesotho’s Surprising Origins And History Of Gift-Giving Among Early Men

Ostrich eggshell beads. Photo: Nature


Have you ever wondered how prehistoric men expressed gratitude 33,000 years ago? Early men in the Southern African nation of Lesotho used beads as a form of gift to express gratitude and strengthen existing ethnic bonds.

According to Science News, the use of beads may have been of enormous value to the people and was used as a bridge to build goodwill and form cultural partnerships. Brian Stewart, an anthropological archaeologist at the University of Michigan who made this discovery with his team, explained that the relationship may have begun with the offering of food by those who lived in the hilly region to those in distress in Lesotho’s low-lying areas.

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The researchers were unable to determine the primary goal of giving beads as a gift, but they hypothesized that ostrich eggshell beads were exchanged as a form of goodwill expressed by an ethnic group. According to the researchers, this relationship may have begun with low-lying area dwellers near the end of the Stone Age.


Stewart claims that in the recent past, hunter-gatherers practiced the art of gift-giving in order to strengthen some sort of bilateral relationship. The low-lying areas’ geographical location made farming and the existence of ostriches possible. It was nearly impossible for ostriches to survive on the hilly terrain. The low-lying dwellers took advantage of the ostriches’ presence by making beads out of their eggshells.

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The beads were then given to those living in Lesotho’s hilly areas, where they were thought to be important due to their absence. The culture of giving beads as gifts consolidated the relationships between these groups for tens of thousands of years, far longer than any other partnership.

According to the report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, archaeologists excavated the beads from Lesotho’s rock shelters. Nick Barton, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford, suggested that early men may have traveled long distances with the ostrich eggshells to neighboring communities, resulting in the spread of such relics.

He explained that gathering ostrich shells to make beads will require more effort from the low-lying residents. He stated that they also collected sea shells for bead making. He surmised that the art of making beads from these raw materials may have originated on the east coast.

The researchers attributed the gift-giving to the low-lying areas’ periodic drought. To find a way out, the residents formed a partnership with the highlanders, giving them food in exchange for beads.

Low-lying areas of the Southern African country have been known to have poor climatic conditions with fewer raindrops. This contributed to the good relationship that the early men established and maintained over 200,000 years ago or more.

With the passage of time, the exigencies of time and the economic situation compelled them to form and maintain these alliances for the sake of survival.



Written by How Africa News

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