[ South Africa ] Our predecessors who lived a life way more difficult and full of obstacles than the time we live in had developed various ways to get their lives going. Findings from different archaeological surveys have revealed the sheer genius of those early men in creating useful devices out of the day to day stuffs that we come across.
Now it is time to get enlightened by the entrepreneurship abilities of the pre-historic people. A recent finding in Sibudu rock shelter north of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa has discovered an ochre powder production site that is believed to be 58,000-year-old!
The time line takes us back to the stone age. And we can not help but wonder at how did that ochre powder production 'factory' (it deserves to be called so) was established and run without the support of any modern scientific machinery.
The dictionary meaning of ochre says, “any of a class of natural earths, mixtures of hydrated oxide of iron with various earthy materials, ranging in colour from pale yellow to orange and red, and used as pigments.” The use of this material is very extensive and significant while colouring leather and manufacturing adhesives.
Commenting on this recent development, Lyn Wadley, the project leader for this survey added, “Yellow and brown ochre can be transformed to red by heating them at temperatures as low as 250 degrees Celsius (482 degrees Fahrenheit)."
The shocking truth that has come to the fore about this 'factory' is the cemented hearths that supported the processing of ochre powder. The site consisted of four cemented hearths containing the ochre powder. We can only assume that some smart fellow found out that white ash from hearths can cement and become rock hard and can provide a stout work surface.
This discovery offers a glimpse of the lives and ways for the early humans. Keeping in mind the utility of orche power, we can make out that they were familiar to the use of leather clothing and other colourful leather stuff.
And the glue that was made out of it might be used to attach the stone spears or arrowheads to hafts or blades to handles for cutting and hunting tools.
Thats not all, they might make use of the orche powder for body painting that is common to rituals and hunting. Researchers even believe that it had some medicine value as well.
Francesco d'Errico, Director of research at the National Center of Scientific Research at the University of Bordeaux observes, “Ochre pigment was a fundamental constitute of Middle Stone Age culture, and that its production likely involved the work of several members of the group."
No matter how many theories come up following this discovery, but the fact is, this primitive site is the latest entry to the long list of 'must visits' in the majestic country named South Africa.
If you are not at all bothered about the archaeological aspects of it, then just visit it for the experience of witnessing something marvellous that Nature and humans executed in tandem!