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Ancient Pigments

Communicating with symbols

The flattened areas on this hematite pigment are signs of grinding or rubbing, telling us that it was held and used like a chunky crayon. With pigments, our ancestors marked objects and possibly their own skin. Colors were symbols by which they identified themselves and their group.

Hematite Crayon, Twin Rivers, Zambia
Image Credit: Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution
Ancient Pigments
Exhibit Item
Date of discovery: 1996
Discovered by: Larry Barham
Site: Twin Rivers, Zambia
Page last updated: May 3, 2017