58,000-year-old glue and paint factory found in Africa

Illustration for article titled 58,000-year-old glue and paint factory found in Africa

It seems that entrepreneurialism has ancient roots among humans. At a site in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, archaeologists have discovered a small, 58 thousand-year-old "factory" where people were producing large batches of sticky, colorful ochre for trade with neighboring groups.

The lead scientist on this particular study, Lyn Wadley, explained that ochre served many uses during the Stone Age. The substance is derived from mineral-rich clay, and comes in many shades: yellow, red, brown, orange, and shades in between. By heating the ochre, or adding animal fat, early humans could tweak the color or make it into a sticky adhesive. There is evidence that humans were using ochre for everything from glue for weapons, to cosmetics and decoration on leather clothing.

Illustration for article titled 58,000-year-old glue and paint factory found in Africa

According to Discovery News:

Wadley analyzed the ochre "factory" at the large Sibudu rock shelter north of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The site 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.

She believes the natural material was collected just over a half a mile away from the site, where it would have been heated and ground or just ground directly onto coarse rocks.

Another archaeologist familiar with the project, Francesco d'Errico, suggested that the site was probably intended to produce a great deal of red ochre in a short time. In other words, this wasn't just a place where people were making their own ochre - it was a factory that would produce a large batch of material and ship it out to other groups. Just the way small businesses do today.

via Discovery News

Top image via Tiwiart


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interesting but when will we find out more about ancient hash factories.