100,000-year-old ochre toolkit and workshop discovered at Still Bay, South Africa

An ochre-rich mixture, possibly used for decoration, painting and skin protection 100,000 years ago, and stored in two abalone shells, was discovered at Blombos Cave, 300km east of  Cape Town, South Africa.

“Ochre may have been applied with symbolic intent as decoration on bodies and clothing during the Middle Stone Age,” says Professor Christopher Henshilwood from the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, who together with his international team discovered a processing workshop in 2008 where a liquefied ochre-rich mixture was produced. The findings will be published in the prestigious international journal Science, on Friday, 14 October 2011. Read the full media release


Blombos Cave nterior panorama - image Magnus Haaland

Abalone shell, Tk1-S1, in laboratory after removal of the quartzite grinder cobble and some of the ochre rich deposit. The cut sand area is where a sample was removed for analysis.

Blombos - Henshilwood excavating - image Magnus Haaland

Blombos - Karen removing Tk1 abalone from deposit - image Grethe Pedersen

Media Pack - Contains 14 High Resolution Images