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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.

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