Have you ever heard of Twin Rivers in Zambia? Do you know that humanity came in contact with pigments, color, 300,000 years ago in the area of Twin Rivers? In this area of Zambia, located southwest of the capital Lusaka, is where the most extensive prehistoric mineral pigment collection in the world is found.
Language is not the only way of communicating, color is also part of it. Humanity communicated using pigments and color hundreds of thousands of years ago. Africa has some of the earliest evidence of the use of earth pigments. Evidence includes engraved ochre nodules and ochre processing areas and tools at sites such as the Blombos Cave in South Africa or Porc Epic in Ethiopia; the extensive processing of ochre at sites such as Sibudu in South Africa or Twin Rivers in Zambia, and the extensive mining of shiny bright red ochre in Eswatini (subject for another day). In 2006, in Twin Rivers, Zambia, archaeologists found that early humans used paint for aesthetic purposes much earlier than previously thought. The team found pigments dated between 350,000 and 400,000 years back. As a comparison, the oldest pigments previously found were 120,000 years old (still in Africa) and the oldest known painting is about 35,000 years old. Huge quantities, about 70 kg or more, were found in a cave, thus implying a systematic use of pigments indicating a purposeful and repeated activity, perhaps linked to a material expression of self-awareness, displayed in the form of body paint/body decoration. Throughout the years, different rocks were excavated, ranging from limonite, hematite, specularite, and different kinds of pigments. The work done by Pr. Barham and his team, shows that even though a variety of colors of ochre were used at Twin Rivers (such as yellow, brown, red, a dark sparkly purple shade of red (specularite), pink, and blue-black) the most predominant color at the site is red.
Enjoy the article below from Colorful beginning for humanity on the BBC, Newsbriefs Archaeology, and check out the extensive work of the Liverpool team.