Were Cavemen Paint Chemists?

Thanks to many amazing discoveries throughout history we have known that cavemen had the ability to create rudimentary paintings on a variety of surfaces within their surroundings (i.e. trees, caves, rocks). What we certainly had no grasp of was how sophisticated they truly were. It now seems they were intelligent enough to have an entire paint workshop.

Professor Christopher Henshilwood and his team reported in the Journal of Science this month findings from a newly unveiled cave in South Africa that appear to indicate a lab or workshop more than 100,000 years old used for making protective or decorative paint.

The team discovered two “toolkits” in shell containers they believe were used for producing and/or storing an iron-rich ochre compound that included bone, charcoal and possibly urine. Also within the cave were parts of animal bones (likely used to either mix or apply the compound after it was made), hammers and grindstones. While the compound’s application “is not self-evident,” (according to the report) it most likely was used as a protective or decorative coating for a surface. “This isn’t just a chance mixture; it is early chemistry,” Henshilwood told Nature News. “It suggests conceptual and probably cognitive abilities which are the equivalent of modern humans.”

In our opinion, the most amazing thing about the discovery is pushing back what was previously believed to be the invention of ancient formulations another 40,000 years. Could Stone Age Homo Sapiens really have had a grasp of chemistry!?!