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Stone in South African cave boasts oldest-known human drawing

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A small stone flake marked with intersecting lines of red ochre pigment some 73,000 years ago that was found in a cave on South Africa’s southern coast represents what archaeologists on Wednesday called the oldest-known example of human drawing.

The abstract design, vaguely resembling a hashtag, was drawn by hunter-gatherers who periodically dwelled in Blombos Cave overlooking the Indian Ocean, roughly 190 miles (300 km) east of Cape Town, the researchers said. It predates the previous oldest-known drawings by at least 30,000 years.

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While the design appears rudimentary, the fact that it was sketched so long ago is significant, suggesting the existence of modern cognitive abilities in our species, Homo sapiens, during a time known as the Middle Stone Age, the researchers said.

The cross-hatched design drawn with ochre, a pigment used by our species dating back at least 285,000 years ago, consists of a set of six straight lines crossed by three slightly curved lines. The coarse-grained stone flake measures about 1-1/2 inches (38.6 mm) long and 1/2-inch (12.8 mm) wide.

“The abrupt termination of all lines on the fragment edges indicates that the pattern originally extended over a larger surface. The pattern was probably more complex and structured in its entirety than in this truncated form,” said archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood of the University of Bergen in Norway and the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, who led the research published in the journal Nature.

“We would be hesitant to call it art. It is definitely an abstract design and it almost certainly had some meaning to the maker and probably formed a part of the common symbolic system understood by other people in this group,” Henshilwood added.

Other Blombos Cave artifacts of similar age included ochre pieces engraved with abstract patterns resembling the one drawn on the stone as well as ochre-covered shell beads. Blombos Cave artifacts dating from 100,000 years ago included a red ochre-based paint.

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“All these findings demonstrate that early Homo sapiens in the southern Cape used different techniques to produce similar signs on different media,” Henshilwood said. “This observation supports the hypothesis that these signs were symbolic in nature and represented an inherent aspect of the advanced cognitive abilities these early African Homo sapiens, the ancestors of all of us today.”

Homo sapiens first appeared more than 315,000 years ago in Africa, later trekking to other parts of the world.

Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Susan Thomas

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Joni Ernst accused of involvement in ‘dark money’ re-election scheme: report

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According to a report from the Associated Press, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) has been accused of illegally working with an outside group to help her re-election prospects in a tough 2020 fight with Donald Trump on the ballot.

According to AP: "An outside group founded by top political aides to Sen. Joni Ernst has worked closely with the Iowa Republican to raise money and boost her reelection prospects, a degree of overlap that potentially violates the law."

"Iowa Values, a political nonprofit that is supposed to be run independently, was co-founded in 2017 by Ernst’s longtime consultant, Jon Kohan. It shares a fundraiser, Claire Holloway Avella, with the Ernst campaign," the report continued. "And a condo owned by a former aide — who was recently hired to lead the group — was used as Iowa Values’ address at a time when he worked for her."

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What makes Christmas movies so popular

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If you are one of those people who will settle in this evening with a hot cup of apple cider to watch a holiday movie, you are not alone. Holiday movies have become firmly embedded in Americans’ winter celebrations.

The New York Times reports a massive increase in new holiday movies this year. Disney, Netflix, Lifetime and Hallmark are now in direct competition for viewers’ attention, with both new releases and reruns of the classics.

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Mike Pompeo under increasing scrutiny as as Trump impeachment ramps up: report

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On Saturday, WVAS Radio's Scott Simon profiled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — and how the impeachment investigation is shaping his political situation.

"As the impeachment inquiry against President Trump continues its march through Congress, questions are churning around his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo," wrote Simon. "For example, did he know, as witnesses testified before House investigators, that President Trump sought political favors from Ukraine in exchange for millions in U.S. assistance? Why did he take days to reveal he was on the now infamous July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy? And does he believe allies of the president who — despite the findings of the intelligence community — claim that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election?"

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