A new archaeological find may signify one of the great leaps in human cultural and cognitive history. Because researchers have discovered a 100,000-year-old art studio.
It was known that ochre—rock with red or yellow pigments—was used for paint even that far back in history. But there was scant evidence for how it was prepared and handled.
Then, in 2008, researchers uncovered an ochre mixing kit in a South African cave. They found two abalone shells, most likely used for paint mixing and storage. They also found ochre, bone, charcoal, grindstones and hammerstones.
The researchers say the ochre was probably rubbed on quartzite slabs to create a fine powder. It was then mixed and heated with other crushed substances, including other stones or mammal-bone. Microscopic striations on the inner abalone surface likely are likely scrape marks left during paint mixing. The research was published in the journal Science.
The paint may have been used for body adornment or for long-gone artwork. And the presence of this paint-production laboratory indicates that the early humans knew basic chemistry and could plan for the future. One small paint-kit for a few humans, one major leap for humankind.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]