In what may have been the world’s earliest artist’s studio, a 100,000-year-old workshop used to mix and store the reddish pigment ochre has been discovered in Blombos Cave on the rugged southern coast near Cape Town.
The discovery was made by researchers in South Africa and was reported in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.
Lead researcher Christopher Henshilwood of the University of Bergen, Norway, said the find represents an important benchmark in the evolution of complex human mental processes.
The ochre could have been used for painting, decoration and skin protection, according to the researchers.
The discovery shows that even at that time “humans had the conceptual ability to source, combine and store substances that were then possibly used to enhance their social practices.”
Two separate tool kits for working ochre were found at the site, the researchers said.
The latest find includes pieces of ochre, grinding bowls, shells for storage and bone, and charcoal to mix with the pigment.