Abalone shells and stone utensils were used to mix ochre.
Archaeologists have uncovered a 100,000-year-old “studio” in South Africa in which early humans apparently mixed some of the first known paint. Dwellers of the cave used stones for pounding and grinding colorful dirt enriched with a kind of iron oxide to a powder, known as ocher.
Based on artifacts in the cave, the artists then blended the ocher with the fat of mammal-bone marrow and a dash of charcoal. Traces of ocher were left on the tools, and samples of the reddish compound were collected in large abalone shells, where the paint was liquefied, stirred and scooped out with a bone spatula, according to the New York Times.
Archaeologists said that in the workshop remains they were seeing the earliest example yet of how emergent Homo sapiens processed ocher, one of the species’ first pigments in wide use, its red color apparently rich in symbolic significance. The early humans may have applied the concoction to their skin for protection or simply decoration, experts suggested. Perhaps it was their way of making social and artistic statements on their bodies or their artifacts.
The discovery reaches back to when modern Homo sapiens were known to have started using paint. Previously, no workshop older than 60,000 years had come to light, and the earliest cave and rock art began appearing about 40,000 years ago.
The well-known animal depictions of Cro-Magnon artists in the caves of Europe would come even later, the Times stated. The animals on the walls of Lascaux in France, for example, were painted some 17,000 years ago.