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Ochre May Have Had Many Uses in Middle Stone Age Ethiopia

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Ethiopia tools ochreBORDEAUX, FRANCE—It has been suggested that ochre was used by Middle Stone Age peoples for either utilitarian or symbolic purposes. Cosmos reports that a team of researchers led by Daniela Rosso of the University of Bordeaux examined 40,000-year-old ochre-processing tools and ochre-stained artifacts collected in a small area of Ethiopia’s Porc-Epic Cave with microscopy, spectroscopy, and X-rays. They found that the red and yellow powders were produced in a variety of colors and textures, perhaps for multiple different uses. For example, preparing ochre in a limestone or sandstone grindstone yielded a lighter-colored powder, while using harder basalt and quartzite grindstones affected the granularity of the ochre. Rosso and her team suggest that fine ochre with a clayish texture would have been made for symbolic body painting or cosmetics. Ochre of the mixed-grain size may have served utilitarian purposes, such as an ingredient in an adhesive used for attaching a blade to a handle or strap. The researchers add that a round-shaped stone found in the collection of ochre-related tools may have been used as a stamp to apply pigment to surfaces. For more, go to “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Neanderthal?

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