Skip to comments.100,000-year-old ochre toolkit and workshop discovered in South Africa
Posted on 10/13/2011 11:32:56 AM PDT by Red Badger
An ochre-rich mixture, possibly used for decoration, painting and skin protection 100,000 years ago, and stored in two abalone shells, was discovered at Blombos Cave in Cape Town, South Africa.
"Ochre may have been applied with symbolic intent as decoration on bodies and clothing during the Middle Stone Age," says Professor Christopher Henshilwood from the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, who together with his international team discovered a processing workshop in 2008 where a liquefied ochre-rich mixture was produced.
The findings will be published in the journal Science tomorrow.
The two coeval, spatially associated toolkits were discovered in situ (not been moved from its original place of deposition) and the kits included ochre, bone, charcoal, grindstones and hammerstones. The grinding and scraping of ochre to produce a powder for use as a pigment was common practice in Africa and the Near East only after about 100,000 years ago.
"This discovery represents an important benchmark in the evolution of complex human cognition (mental processes) in that it shows that humans had the conceptual ability to source, combine and store substances that were then possibly used to enhance their social practices," explains Henshilwood.
"We believe that the manufacturing process involved the rubbing of pieces of ochre on quartzite slabs to produce a fine red powder. Ochre chips were crushed with quartz, quartzite and silcrete hammerstones/grinders and combined with heated crushed, mammal-bone, charcoal, stone chips and a liquid, which was then introduced to the abalone shells and gently stirred. A bone was probably used to stir the mixture and to transfer some of the mixture out of the shell."
The quartz sediments in which the ochre containers were buried were dated to about 100,000 years using Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating. This is consistent with the thermoluminescence dating of burnt lithics and the dating of calcium carbonate concretions using uranium-series dating methods.
"The recovery of these toolkits adds evidence for early technological and behavioural developments associated with humans and documents their deliberate planning, production and curation of pigmented compound and the use of containers. It also demonstrates that humans had an elementary knowledge of chemistry and the ability for long-term planning 100,000 years ago," concludes Henshilwood.
The two specimens will be on display at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town from Friday, 14 October 2011.
An ochre-rich mixture, possibly used for decoration, painting and skin protection 100,000 years ago, and stored in two abalone shells, was discovered at Blombos Cave in Cape Town, South Africa. Credit: Prof. Chris Henshilwood, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Paging Helen Thomas! Your make-up kit has been found.........
At least to my eyes, there does not appear to be anything obviously human-built in this “toolkit”.
It’s au natural.......But abalones don’t live in caves............at least not above water......
Used in the oldest profession no doubt! ;-)
This wasn’t used by humans, it’s just evolution trying to create a clam. Another failed evolutionary experiment and evidence that evolution is true.
Poor kid. I only lost a few tools one-at-a-time of my dad’s. But never the whole tool kit.
|GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach|
Thanks Red Badger.
I love the evolution of tools and toolmaking.
Covered in ochre for the ceremony, chief law man Jacob Nayinggul supervises proceedings as human remains are finally returned to their ancestral home in Gunbalanya.
The use of ochre in Australia also has a long history. Ochre has been used for millennia by Aboriginal people in body decoration, mortuary practices, cave painting, bark painting and other artwork, and the preservation of animal skins, among other uses. At Lake Mungo, in Western New South Wales, burial sites have been excavated and burial materials, including ochre-painted bones, have been carbon-dated to 62,000 years, although some archaeologists believe human occupation of Australia dates no further back than 45,000 years. Red, yellow and white ochres are plentiful across Australia, especially the Western Desert, Kimberley and Arnhem Land regions, and occur in many archaeological sites. The National Museum of Australia has a large collection of samples of ochre from many sites across Australia. 
Himba woman covered with a traditional ochre pigment
Thanks Fred Nerks!