Before Farming

Ochre crayons or waste products? Replications compared with MSA ‘crayons’ from Sibudu Cave, South Africa

Before Farming (2005), 2005, (3), 1–12.

Abstract

Ochre nodules were ground to produce powder for use in replicated glues for hafting experiments. When ochre is obtained from nodules with a hard stone centre, the powder is most efficiently extracted by rotating the nodules on a coarse piece of stone. This rotation during grinding creates facets and some, though not all, of the nodules develop a crayon-like shape at the stage when they need to be discarded. Microscopic examination of these discards reveals identical striations and polish to those on worked ochre ‘crayons’ that were archaeologically recovered from Middle Stone Age layers of Sibudu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Thus, so-called ochre ‘crayons’ need careful residue and usewear analysis before any secondary function can be confirmed.

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Wadley, Lyn