One of the topics I tend to emphasize is that the ability to think abstractly, to use signs symbols and language, is THE important human invention that led to the type of complex mind and memory systems (including the external memory systems of language, imagery, alphanumerics, writing, and now digitization) that make our current type of consciousness possible, and that are the stepping stone to the types of consciousness we can develop and that we may see in teh future.

One of the ways I’ve looked at this question is thru the study of ancient art, cave art, neo and paleolithic art, and what little we can see of the art and decorative and symbolic crafts of deep paleo humankind.

And now we have discovered the oldest human art tool kit, a small “factory” for producing paints from ocher – and dated at 100,000 years, the oldest evidence for a fully developed practice of art among humans yet.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15257259

The hoard includes red and yellow pigments, shell containers, and the
grinding cobbles and bone spatulas to work up a paste – everything an ancient
artist might need in their workshop.

This extraordinary discovery is reported in the journal Science.

It is proof, say researchers, of our early ancestors’ complexity of
thought.

“This is significant because it is pushing back the boundaries of our
understanding of when Homo sapiens – people like us – first became
modern,” said Prof Christopher Henshilwood from the University of the
Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

“These finds indicate that humans were certainly thinking in a modern way, in
a way that is cognitively advanced, at least 100,000 years ago,” he told BBC
News.

Ancient Paint Kit from 100,000bce

Prof Chris Stringer from London’s Natural History Museum commented: “Twenty
or 30 years ago, there was a view that Europe was really the place where all the
big action was taking place – wonderful painted caves 30,000-35,000 years ago,
and people decorating their bodies.

“We now know that this behaviour goes back far further in Africa; it goes
back to 100,000 years, perhaps even more than 100,000 years.

“People were starting to express social identity in completely new ways. And
there is a view that this behaviour is linked with complex language. So, it may
indicate these people were communicating in a fully modern way,” he told BBC
News.