The World’s Oldest Chemistry Set? New Discoveries from Blombos Cave
Rock Art Gallery Ongoing
“What makes us human?” This topical question receives some answer in the form of two unique 100 000-year-old ochre preparing kits from Blombos Cave, South Africa. This remarkable archaeological discovery is the oldest known evidence of the human use of containers, and also the oldest known evidence of people practicing chemistry.
The subject of painstaking research by the Blombos Cave Project since their discovery in 2008, one of these kits is displayed at Iziko South African Museum for the first time. The kit consists of an abalone or ‘perlemoen’ shell, a seal shoulder blade, bone fragments and ochre fragments obtained from at least 20 km away. These ingredients were mixed in the shell to make a pigment-rich liquid mixture that may have been used as anything from sunscreen through to body art.
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