Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stone Age studio

An interesting find has been made in South Africa's Blombos Cave (1st image). A team of researchers from the universities of Bergen and Witwatersrand, led by Professor Christopher Henshilwood (2nd image, pictured in 2002), discovered artefacts that indicate the cave was used by an artisan 100,000 years ago as a studio. The Archaeology News Network brings the scene to life:

"It was a beautiful spot, a workshop with a glorious natural picture window, cooled by a sea breeze in summer, warmed by a small fire in winter. The sandy cliff top above was covered with a white-flowering shrub that one distant day would be known as blombos and give this place the name Blombos Cave. The man picked up a piece of reddish brown stone about 3" long that he - or she, no one knows - had polished. With a stone point, he etched a geometric design in the flat surface-simple crosshatchings framed by 2 parallel lines with a 3rd line down the middle. Today the stone offers no clue to its original purpose. It could have been a religious object, an ornament or just an ancient doodle. But to see it is to immediately recognize it as something only a person could have made. Carving the stone was a very human thing to do. The scratchings on this piece of red ocher mudstone are the oldest known example of an intricate design made by a human being."
The items found:
  • ochre slabs
  • abalone shells containing the residue of red ochre
  • bone tools for incising lines
  • charcoal from fires used to heat the materials
  • quartzite grindstones used to mix the pigments
  • hammerstones
  • shells that were deliberately perforated and decorated with ochre to wear as beads
The pigments may have been used to paint bodies in addition to objects and walls.

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