Stone Age color, glue 'factory' found

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The Stone Age version of successful businessmen like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates might have been involved in the color and glue trade.

A once-thriving 58,000-year-old ochre powder production site has just been discovered in South Africa. The discovery offers a glimpse of what early humans valued and used in their everyday lives.

The finding, which will be described in the Journal of Archaeological Science, also marks the first time that any Stone Age site has yielded evidence for ochre powder processing on cemented hearths — an innovation for the period. A clever caveman must have figured out that white ash from hearths can cement and become rock hard, providing a sturdy work surface.

Wadley, who authored the study, is a professor in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies and in the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand. She said ochre has been found on bone awl tools probably used for working leather, so it is possible that the ancients sported colorful leather clothing and other leather goods.

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