An investigation into the properties of the ochre from Sibudu, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


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January 2012


The properties of ochre from the Middle Stone Age (MSA) layers of Sibudu, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, are described here. The assemblage comprises 5449 pieces (>8 mm), including 682 pieces with markings from use. Shale is the most common geological form. Ochre of medium hardness is common and the grain sizes are generally silty or clayey. Some change in ochre types occurs through time. The pre-Still Bay and Howiesons Poort layers have the highest percentage of utilised pieces. Clayey grain sizes are favoured during the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort, whereas silty grain sizes are preferred in the younger MSA occupations. Bright-red ochre was preferentially selected for use throughout the sequence, with the exception of the final MSA where a wider range of colours was utilised. High frequencies of red amongst the utilised pieces, coupled with high frequencies of yellow or orange pieces with no evidence of use, suggest that colour choices were deliberate and not a product of post-depositional heating. Chemical analysis on a sample of utilised pieces indicates that they all contain iron, silicon, aluminium and calcium. Many pieces contain hematite and some maghemite. There is evidence of preferential selection of specific types of ochre for use in the Sibudu assemblage.


Colour, Geological Form, Grain Size, Hardness, Mica, Ochre, Selection Preferences And Utilisation

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