Core-shell processing of natural pigment: Upper Palaeolithic red ochre from Lovas, Hungary

I. Sajó, János Kovács, Kathryn E. Fitzsimmons, Viktor Jáger, György Lengyel, Bence Viola, Sahra Talamo, Jean Jacques Hublin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Ochre is the common archaeological term for prehistoric pigments. It is applied to a range of uses, from ritual burials to cave art to medications. While a substantial number of Palaeolithic paint mining pits have been identified across Europe, the link between ochre use and provenance, and their antiquity, has never yet been identified. Here we characterise the mineralogical signature of core-shell processed ochre from the Palaeolithic paint mining pits near Lovas in Hungary, using a novel integration of petrographic and mineralogical techniques. We present the first evidence for core-shell processed, natural pigment that was prepared by prehistoric people from hematitic red ochre. This involved combining the darker red outer shell with the less intensely coloured core to efficiently produce an economical, yet still strongly coloured, paint. We demonstrate the antiquity of the site as having operated between 14-13 kcal BP, during the Epigravettian period. This is based on new radiocarbon dating of bone artefacts associated with the quarry site. The dating results indicate the site to be the oldest known evidence for core-shell pigment processing. We show that the ochre mined at Lovas was exported from the site based on its characteristic signature at other archaeological sites in the region. Our discovery not only provides a methodological framework for future characterisation of ochre pigments, but also provides the earliest known evidence for "value-adding" of products for trade.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0131762
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 6 2015

Fingerprint

Paint
Hungary
Pigments
paints
pigments
Radiometric Dating
Processing
Burial
Ceremonial Behavior
Art
radiocarbon dating
Caves
Artifacts
Quarries
arts
caves
provenance
drug therapy
Bone and Bones
Bone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Sajó, I., Kovács, J., Fitzsimmons, K. E., Jáger, V., Lengyel, G., Viola, B., ... Hublin, J. J. (2015). Core-shell processing of natural pigment: Upper Palaeolithic red ochre from Lovas, Hungary. PLoS One, 10(7), [e0131762]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0131762

Core-shell processing of natural pigment : Upper Palaeolithic red ochre from Lovas, Hungary. / Sajó, I.; Kovács, János; Fitzsimmons, Kathryn E.; Jáger, Viktor; Lengyel, György; Viola, Bence; Talamo, Sahra; Hublin, Jean Jacques.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 10, No. 7, e0131762, 06.07.2015.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Sajó, I, Kovács, J, Fitzsimmons, KE, Jáger, V, Lengyel, G, Viola, B, Talamo, S & Hublin, JJ 2015, 'Core-shell processing of natural pigment: Upper Palaeolithic red ochre from Lovas, Hungary', PLoS One, vol. 10, no. 7, e0131762. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0131762
Sajó, I. ; Kovács, János ; Fitzsimmons, Kathryn E. ; Jáger, Viktor ; Lengyel, György ; Viola, Bence ; Talamo, Sahra ; Hublin, Jean Jacques. / Core-shell processing of natural pigment : Upper Palaeolithic red ochre from Lovas, Hungary. In: PLoS One. 2015 ; Vol. 10, No. 7.
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