58000-year-old glue and paint factory found in AfricaPublished On: Mon, Jun 7th, 2010 | Science | By BioNews
Archaeologists have stumbled upon a once-thriving ochre powder production site in South Africa.
The colour and glue trade could have been a blossoming industry some 58,000 years ago. The find also indicates first time evidence for ochre powder processing on cemented hearths in Stone Age.
“Ochre occurs in a range of colors that includes orange, red, yellow, brown and shades of these colors,” Discovery News quoted project leader Lyn Wadley.
“Yellow and brown ochre can be transformed to red by heating them at temperatures as low as 250 degrees Celsius (482 degrees Fahrenheit).”
Ochre is derived from naturally tinted clay that contains mineral oxides. In addition to coloring objects, it makes a compound adhesive when mixed with other ingredients, such as plant gum and animal fat.
“This glue would have attached stone spear or arrowheads to hafts, or blades to handles for cutting tools,” Wadley explained.
The site, at the large Sibudu rock shelter north of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal consisted of four cemented hearths containing the ochre powder. The cement workstations could have held grindstones and/or served as storage receptacles for the powder, according to Wadley, who also excavated about 8,000 pieces of ochre in the area.
Based on the nature of the cemented ash and the geology of the Sibudu site, it is believed that people 58,000 years ago intended to produce large quantities of red pigment in a short time frame.
The finding will be described in the Journal of Archaeological Science.