AR­CHAE­OL­O­GISTS UN­EARTH ‘WORLD’S OLDEST CRAYON’

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

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

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