While trawling the Web I came across a fascinating feature about a newly discovered 58,000-year-old ochre powder production site at Sibudu in South Africa. South Africa certainly isn’t the only place to find ochres, as they are common across the world. My nearest producer is in my own county, at Clearwell Caves in the Forest of Dean.
Ochre is a clay coloured by iron, and occurs in a range of colours – yellow, orange, red and brown. Ochre at Sibudu had a number of uses, one of which was to make paint, and doubtless the characteristic permanence and opacity made it popular then as it does today.
Today artists across the world are familiar with yellow ochre paint, but I wonder how many realise how long it has been utilised. I’ve been studying its use in ancient Egyptian art, where it was a common pigment. (You can see examples of its usage on my website http://www.jackiegarner.co.uk/egypt.htm) The Sibudu discovery dates back to the Stone Age, and the original use of ochres actually dates back to prehistoric times.
Intriguing thought: how many other industries are still using the same materials today as in prehistoric times?
Here’s the link to the full feature: