manufacture natural Earth pigmentation

Step up to the ochre

Red ochre the archaic paint manufactured to daub rock art, perhaps highlighting sonic hot spots (archaeoacoustics) in ancient megalithic structures such as Malta’s Hypogeum, the most desired paste to stain skeletons for burial.

Why did these skilled people, all around the Earth, perhaps for tens or hundreds of thousands of years, manufacture this pigmentation?

This is the first study of the rock art at Babine Lake. It shows that individuals who prepared the ochre paints harvested an aquatic, iron-rich bacteria out of the lake – in the form of an orange-brown sediment.

In the study, the scientists used modern technology, including the ability to heat a single grain of ochre and watch the effects of temperature change under an electron microscope at MU’s Electron Microscopy Core facility. They determined that individuals at Babine Lake deliberately heated this bacteria to a temperature range of approximately 750°C to 850°C to initiate the color transformation.
Modern technology reconstructs properties of ochre, commonly found in ancient rock art |

How did ancient man make red ochre? How did they transform the more common yellow ochre ore into darker reds that pre historic cultures particularly seemed to enjoy using.

Making ochre for ancient rock art

Red ochre can be manufactured using high heat from fire. It seems that some historic tribes use to heat the yellow material or other chemicals they would add to make the pigmentation. Heating it up to 800 C so it would be transformed into red ochre.

ruddle red ochre skeleton

Ochre (often referred to as yellow ochre) is one of a variety of forms of iron oxide which are described as earth-based pigments. These pigments, used by ancient and modern artists, are made of iron oxyhydroxide, which is to say they are natural minerals and compounds composed of varying proportions of iron (Fe3 or Fe2), oxygen (O) and hydrogen (H).

Other natural forms of earth pigments related to ochre include sienna, which is similar to yellow ochre but warmer in color and more translucent; and umber, which has goethite as its primary component and incorporates various levels of manganese.

Red oxides or red ochres are hematite-rich forms of yellow ochres, commonly formed from aerobic natural weathering of iron-bearing minerals.
Ochre The Oldest Known Natural Pigment in the World | Thoughtco

manufacturing ochre for ancient rock petroglyphs

We were able to reconstruct the approximate temperature at which the people at Babine Lake were deliberately heating this biogenic paint over open-hearth fires. So, this wasn’t a transformation done by chance with nature. Today, engineers are spending a lot of money trying to determine how to produce highly thermo-stable paints for ceramic manufacturing or aerospace engineering without much known success, yet we’ve found that hunter-gatherers had already discovered a successful way to do this long ago.”
Modern technology reconstructs properties of ochre, commonly found in ancient rock art |

red ochre pigment archaeoacoustics sound

Ochre and out

The Rolling Stones may have wanted everything Painted Black but buried skeleton evidence suggests our ancestors might have sung I see a body and I want it painted red.

Red Lady of Paviland Cave

Archeologists in China have discovered two engraved bones with ochre incisions in a layer dating back between 105,000 and 125,000 years ago, which they say is the earliest evidence of human populations using ochre — an earthy pigment — for symbolic purposes.

It is clear that members of our species, Homo sapiens, possess these abilities. However, opinions still differ amongst archaeologists between those who think archaic hominin cognition is comparable to that of Homo sapiens and those who don’t
In China, archeologists find earliest evidence of ochre on bone engravings

In Darts, you are asked to step up to the oche to launch your aerial bombardment, to play the game. Were funeral rights, covering humanoid bones with iron ochre, to help prepare them to step up to the great Oche in the red sky or red planet King?

Step up to the oche ochre

The Red Lady of Paviland is an Upper Paleolithic partial skeleton of a male dyed in red ochre and buried in Britain 33,000 BP. The bones were discovered in 1823 by William Buckland in an archaeological dig at Goat’s Hole Cave (Paviland cave).

“I found the skeleton enveloped by a coating of a kind of ruddle … which stained the earth, and in some parts extended itself to the distance of about half an inch [12 mm] around the surface of the bones … Close to that part of the thigh bone where the pocket is usually worn surrounded also by ruddle [were] about two handfuls of the Nerita littoralis [periwinkle shells]. At another part of the skeleton, viz in contact with the ribs [were] forty or fifty fragments of ivory rods [also] some small fragments of rings made of the same ivory and found with the rods … Both rods and rings, as well as the Nerite shells, were stained superficially with red, and lay in the same red substance that enveloped the bones.”
Red Lady of Paviland Cave – William Buckland’s Reliquiae Diluvianae | Wikipedia

At Lake Mungo, in Western New South Wales, burial sites have been excavated and burial materials, including ochre-painted bones, have been dated to the arrival of people in Australia; Mungo Man was buried sprinkled with red ochre at dates confidently estimated as at least 30,000 years BP and possibly as old as 60,000 years old.
Mungo Man Australia Ochre | Wikipedia

Iron red paint from yellow ochre?

Ochre contains a minimum of 12% iron oxyhydroxide, but the amount can range up to 30% or more, giving rise to the wide range of colors from light yellow to red and brown. The intensity of color depends on the degree of oxidation and hydration of the iron oxides, and the color becomes browner depending on the percentage of manganese dioxide, and redder based on the percentage of hematite.

Since ochre is sensitive to oxidation and hydration, the yellow can be turned red by heating goethite (FeOOH) bearing pigments in yellow earth and converting some of it to hematite. Exposing yellow goethite to temperatures above 300 degrees Celcius will gradually dehydrate the mineral, converting it first to orange-yellow and then red as hematite is produced.

Evidence of heat-treatment of ochre dates at least as early as the Middle Stone Age deposits in Blombos cave, South Africa.
Getting Red from Yellow – Ochre The Oldest Known Natural Pigment in the World | Thoughtco

Multiple independent lines of evidence unite to show that the individuals who prepared paints for rock art at Babine Lake harvested aquatic microbial iron mats dominated by iron-oxidizing bacteria (FeOB). Those bacterial species produce biominerals with unique morphologies that can be long-lived. This iron-rich material was homogenized and heated in large domestic hearths at a controlled range of approximately 750 °C to 850 °C; a technical gesture that was deliberately performed to enhance color properties, transforming orange-brown sediment to a vivid red hue.

The heat treatment process converted the non-crystalline iron oxide minerals to crystalline forms resulting in increased colorfastness and resistance to degradation. This selective production of durable, colorfast, and highly thermostable biogenically-derived rock art paint represents a unique technological innovation.
Hunter-Gatherers Harvested and Heated Microbial Biogenic Iron Oxides to Produce Rock Art Pigment

Red ochre burial bones

Microanalysis of rock art pigments from the North American Pacific Northwest reveals a sophisticated use of iron oxide produced by the biomineralizing bacterium Leptothrix ochracea; a keystone species of chemolithotroph recognized in recent advances in the development of thermostable, colorfast biomaterial pigments.

Here we show evidence for human engagement with this bacterium, including nanostructural and magnetic properties evident of thermal enhancement, indicating that controlled use of pyrotechnology was a key feature of how biogenic iron oxides were prepared into paint. Our results demonstrate that hunter-gatherers in this area of study prepared pigments by harvesting aquatic microbial iron mats dominated by iron-oxidizing bacteria, which were subsequently heated in large open hearths at a controlled range of 750 °C to 850 °C.

This technical gesture was performed to enhance color properties, and increase colorfastness and resistance to degradation. This skilled production of highly thermostable and long-lasting rock art paint represents a specialized technological innovation.
Hunter-Gatherers Harvested and Heated Microbial Biogenic Iron Oxides to Produce Rock Art Pigment

When natural sienna and umber pigments are heated, they are dehydrated and some of the limonite is transformed into hematite, giving them more reddish colours, called burnt sienna and burnt umber. Ochres are non-toxic and can be used to make an oil paint that dries quickly and covers surfaces thoroughly.

Why was red ochre so important?

Was it to reflect the colour of whatever planet god was the Sun King at that time? In a solar system full of dusty plasma due to planetary catastrophism, were our skies filtering light so the Sun seemed much redder?