Ancient Art

tony leather By tony leather, 15th Apr 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/34fbj640/
Posted in Wikinut>News>Education

These finds, revealing the complexity pigments mixed there by humans, and the tools employed are quite astonishing in demonstrating just how cunning some very early human ancestors could be.

Ancient Art

Ancient Art
Something like 100,000 years ago, in the oldest known artist's workshop ever discovered, in a South African cave, some artistic soul ground up some ochre, then melted some bone-marrow fat and mixed the resultant paste with urine, in preparation for a body-painting session.
These finds, revealing the complexity pigments mixed there by humans, and the tools employed are quite astonishing in demonstrating just how cunning some very early human ancestors could be.
The southern coast of south Africa is where the Blombos cave finds were made, those involved uncertain just what the paint was used for, believing that application to skin for decoration or ritual, or perhaps even as an insect repellent are the likeliest explanations.

The team, led by Christopher Henshilwood of Johannesburg University of the Witwatersrand found tools, along with two abalone shells obviously used to mix and store paint, as well as quartzite stones used for grinding ochre to powder.

Animal bones appearing to be used for stirring the powder with other materials, such as charcoal, quartz fragments, bone and other stones were also discovered, bones evidently heated to get at the marrow used to bind the mixture. Everything survived together in the cave after abandonment, when it filled with wind-blown sand.

The simple fact of our ancient ancestors mixing minerals to make paint so long ago is a significant clue to their cognitive abilities, this being also the first known use of containers, along with the panning needed and the base chemical knowledge that would have been required.
Since the nearest known ochre source is 20 km distant from the cave, Homo sapiens was obviously capable of great organisational skill only 50,000 to 100,000 years after first emerging as a species. This highly thought out, and systematic production of paint could have been used for murals, but no ancient paintings have been discovered there.

An earlier expedition by the same team to these same caves did find thirteen engraved ochre tablets about 2 centimetres square per piece, bearing hatched or leaf-like designs and around the same age as the abalone shells, along with what could possibly have been some of the earliest lipstick ever found. Whilst cave art before 35,000 years old has never been found, this new Blombos find clearly shows that early humans were creatively making and using pigments much earlier.

Tags

Art, Caves, History, Humanity, Painting

Meet the author

author avatar tony leather
mainly non-fiction articles, though I do write short stories, poetry and descriptive prose as well. Have been writing for over ten years now

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