100,000-Year-Old Art Studio Found in Africa

23 October, 2011 at 20:59 | Posted in Culture, Science | Leave a comment
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By Arshdeep Sarao
Epoch Times Staff

A prehistoric ochre-processing workshop with two in situ toolkits has been discovered at Blombos Cave, situated on the southern Cape Coast in South Africa.

A prehistoric ochre-processing workshop with two in situ toolkits has been discovered at Blombos Cave, situated on the southern Cape Coast in South Africa.

This is the world’s oldest known art studio, and was probably used to produce liquefied ochre for painting, decoration, and skin protection.

The toolkits were formed from abalone shells (Haliotis midae), one with a tight-fitting quartzite cobble on top. They included an ochre-rich mixture, as well as charcoal, grindstones, and hammerstones. The cobble has use-wear marks, red ochre stains, and is encrusted with bone fragments.

The ancient workshop was unearthed in 2008 by an international team, under the guidance of Christopher Henshilwood, a research professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and the director of the Blombos Cave Project.

“Ochre may have been applied with symbolic intent as decoration on bodies and clothing during the Middle Stone Age,” said Henshilwood in a press release.

The ancient workshop was used for grinding, scraping, and storing red ochre dust, which is thought to have been common practice in Africa and the Near East from 100,000 years ago.

“We believe that the manufacturing process involved the rubbing of pieces of ochre on quartzite slabs to produce a fine red powder,” Henshilwood explained.

“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 bone, identified as a seal’s scapula or shoulderbone, was probably used to extract fat and marrow for mixing with the pigment as a binder.

Henshilwood said the discovery provides evidence for the “knowledge of chemistry and the ability for long-term planning” in the humans who used this site 100,000 years ago.

The toolkits will be displayed in an exhibition at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town.

The findings were published online in the journal Science on Oct. 14.

via 100,000-Year-Old Art Studio Found in Africa | Science | Epoch Times

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