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100,000 Year Old Paint Mix Found in South Africa


A mix of ochre, crushed seal bones, charcoal and quartzite chips were found inside two abalone shells in South Africa’s Blombos Cave. The mixture dates to approximately 100,000 years ago, though the cave has been inhabited off and on for the last 140,000 years. Bright red staining, a round stone covering the shells, nearby grinding stones and a fire pit were discovered in association with the pigment. Previously, the oldest known ochre-making studio was 60,000  years old (Than 2011), so this was quite a find.

We find much younger ochre art and mixing areas in North America as well. Ochre, in North America, is most commonly red, but also comes in yellow. You can even draw with it directly, using it like chalk. The ochre used in this fashion is a mineral formed from iron oxide.

To access the full National Geographic article, click the link in the Reference below:


Than, Ker

2011   Oldest “Art Studio” Found; Evidence of Early Chemistry. National Geographic Daily News (October 13, 2011). Electronic document,, accessed October 14, 2011.

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