Archaeologists have discovered what could be the world's oldest crayon. The artifact was possibly used by our ancestors 10,000 years ago to give their animal skins or artwork a reddish color.
Found In Ancient Lake Filled In With Peat
The crayon was found near Lake Flixton, an ancient lake that has been in-filled with peat helping preserve Great Britain's most important Mesolithic site, Star Carr. A similar pebble was found at the opposite side of the lake. Both artifacts are made of ocher.
Ocher is a natural clay-earth pigment used by hunter-gatherers as early as the prehistoric times. Ocher has different uses. It was used as an insect repellent and sunscreen. It is also used to tan hide. Ocher has antibacterial qualities that prevent collagen from breaking down, which helps preserve hide. Evidence suggests that some pieces of ocher have been rubbed on soft materials in ancient times.
Possibly Used For Artistic Purposes
The researchers think that the two ocher object had different specific uses, but their markings and shape suggest that they were used for art. The objects were also found in a region known for art, so there is the possibility they were used to produce decorative pieces or to color the skin of animals.
The crayon, a small object measuring just 22 mm long and 7 mm wide, has a sharpened end, similar to modern-day pencil or crayon. Its shape suggests it could have been used as a drawing or coloring tool.
"One of the latest objects we have found looks exactly like a crayon; the tip is faceted and has gone from a rounded end to a really sharpened end, suggesting it has been used," said study researcher Andy Needham, from the University of York's Department of Archaeology.
Source Of Red Pigment
The pebble, on the other hand, has a heavily striated surface that may have been scraped to produce a pigment powder.
"The deep grooves lacking any apparent artistic design on the pebble suggests it was used to harvest red pigment powder," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the February 2018 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.
"The sharp edges with striations in multiple directions might indicate the elongate shaped piece was used as a drawing and colouring tool, perhaps in a similar way to a contemporary pencil or crayon."
Researchers said that objects provide a vibrant picture of how people interacted with their environment during the Mesolithic period.