In this study, Christopher Henshilwood of the University of Bergen in Norway and his colleagues report two ochre-processing “toolkits” at Blombos, dated to 100,000 years ago with a technique called optically stimulated luminescence, which measures how long grains of sand in archaeological layers have been hidden from sunlight. The toolkits, found only 16 centimeters apart in the same layer, were very similar: Both consisted of abalone shells filled with a mixture of ochre, crushed bone, and charcoal, the group reports today in Science. Inside both shells were chunks of ochre-stained quartzite rock apparently used to grind the mixture. One of the shells also had part of the forearm bone of a canid, possibly a wolf or fox, which the team thinks might have been used to stir the paint or transfer it out of the shell.
Story: Michal Balter, ScienceMag | Photo: C. S. Henshilwood et al., Science