ARCHAEOLOGISTS UNEARTH ‘WORLD’S OLDEST CRAYON’
It seems like colouring in is a truly ancient pastime. An archaeological dig at a site near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, has unearthed what is believed to be a 10,000-year-old ‘crayon’ made from red ochre, a type of clay consisting mainly of ferric oxide.
The area in which the dig took place was already known to be rich in Mesolithic art. A pendant dug up in nearby Star Carr in 2015 is the oldest such object ever discovered, while a large number of headdresses made from red deer antlers have also been found in the area.
Now, a joint team from the University of York’s departments of archaeology and physics has been responsible for locating and unearthing the new object, found preserved in peat. It’s a naturally occurring pebble, measuring 22mm long by 7mm wide, whose end appears to have been sharpened to a point – as it would be if it had been used for painting on cave walls or on animal skins.
“Colour was a significant part of hunter-gatherer life and ochre gives you a very vibrant red colour. It was important in the Mesolithic period and seems to have been used in a number of ways,” said lead author Dr Andy Needham. “For me, this is a very significant object and helps us build a bigger picture of what life was like in the area. It suggests it would have been a colourful place.”
The Mesolithic crayon is sharper on one end, which suggests it was used for drawing or colouring 25mm