Ancient paint workshop discovery

Abalone shell with ochre paint remnants

Here’s an inspiring story for artists everywhere, who may feel they have an innate need to paint that is rooted deep in their genetic code. Well, it may be true!

Imagine going back in time 100,000 years, entering deep into a fire-lit cave in South Africa, and observing stone age humans mixing paint in a workshop, and scooping it out to be used for art, or hide preparation, or…. we don’t know what else!

The discovery of an ancient workshop has surprised scientists, who until now have had evidence of this kind of organized painting activity only as far as 60,000 years back.

In the South African cave, researchers discovered abalone shells that had been used as sealed containers and still contained the residue of ochre-based paint. Other tools used for painting activities were also discovered in the cave. The story was published in Science magazine, and picked up by the New York Times. Check it out!

If you want to read more, I found a second article on this topic with more information about some of the earlier finds in the Blombos Cave where the workshop was found. In this article, they refer to the discovery of some of the earliest known beads, used for ornamentation. Awesome!

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