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Welcome to African Archaeology!

The Journal of African Archaeology is an international peer-reviewed periodical appearing half-yearly since 2003. It publishes original papers addressing recent research and developments in African archaeology and related disciplines. The journal's main purpose is to provide scholars and students with a new pan-African forum for discussing relevant topics on the cultural dynamics of past African societies.

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Vol. 11 (1) 2013

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T. Hodgskiss

Ochre Use in the Middle Stone Age at Sibudu, South Africa: Grinding, Rubbing, Scoring and Engraving

Journal of African Archaeology, Volume 11 (1), 2013, pages 75-95, DOI 10.3213/2191-5784-10232

Abstract

Many Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites have evidence of the regular collection and use of ochre. Sibudu (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) has a large MSA ochre assemblage of over 9000 pieces from layers dating between ~77 ka and ~38 ka. There are 682 pieces with signs of use. All use-traces were examined and activity categories were defined based on published ochre experiments. The most frequent markings on ochre pieces are grinding striations that are smoothed by subsequent rubbing. Grinding and rubbing also occur independently on many pieces. Scored pieces are rare, but are more common in the pre-Still Bay (~77 ka) industry than elsewhere in the sequence. Some scored pieces may represent deliberate engravings. Markings acquired during powder-production are most numerous in the assemblage. Powder was mostly produced from bright-red pieces, but scoring was mainly performed on brown-red pieces. Pieces with mica inclusions are not common, but were favoured for powder production. Ochre powder was used as an aggregate in hafting adhesives, but other possible applications are as paint or as a substance to aid hide tanning.

Résumé
Divers témoignages attestant d'une collecte et d'un usage réguliers de l'ocre ont été retrouvés dans de nombreux sites Middle Stone Age (MSA). Sibudu a livré un assemblage important de colorants, composé d'environ 9000 pièces d'ocre, provenant des niveaux datés entre ~77 et ~38 ka. Parmi ces pièces, 682 portent des traces d'utilisation. Toutes les traces ont été examinées et plusieurs catégories, correspondant à différentes activités, ont été définies, sur la base de résultats issus d'études expérimentales. Les traces les plus fréquemment observées sur les pièces en ocre sont les stries de d'abrasion, qui ont été émoussées par des frottements postérieurs. Abrasions et émoussés interviennent aussi de façon indépendante. Les éléments striés sont rares mais néanmoins plus fréquents dans le niveau pré-Still Bay (~77 ka) que dans les autres niveaux. Quelques pièces striées ont peut-être été gravées de manière intentionnelle. Les traces les plus nombreuses correspondent à celles créées lors de la production de poudre. Les blocs d'ocre rouge vif ont été majoritairement utilisés pour la production de poudre, tandis que pour les incisions, ce sont les blocs marron-rouge, qui ont été choisis. La poudre d'ocre a été utilisée comme agrégat dans les adhésifs nécessaires à l'emmanchement mais d'autres utilisations sont également possibles, par exemple comme colorant pour la peinture ou comme ingrédient pour améliorer le tannage des peaux.


Keywords: engraving, grinding, Middle Stone Age, MSA, ochre, powder, rubbing, scoring, use-wear


© Copyright: Africa Magna Verlag 2011
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