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PLoS One. 2015 Jun 30;10(6):e0131273. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131273. eCollection 2015.

A Milk and Ochre Paint Mixture Used 49,000 Years Ago at Sibudu, South Africa.

Author information

1
University of Colorado Museum, Boulder, Colorado, United States of America; School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Istituto Italiano di Paleontologia Umana, Rome, Italy.
2
School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Laboratoire Archéologie et Peuplement de l'Afrique, Department of Genetics and Evolution, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
3
Dipartimento di Chimica, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
4
Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche, Complesso Universitario Monte S. Angelo, Napoli, Italy.
5
Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
6
Research Lab for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3QY, England.
7
Evolutionary Studies Institute, Centre of Excellence, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Abstract

Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, proteomic and scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDS) analyses of residue on a stone flake from a 49,000 year-old layer of Sibudu (South Africa) indicate a mixture of ochre and casein from milk, likely obtained by killing a lactating wild bovid. Ochre powder production and use are documented in Middle Stone Age South African sites but until now there has been no evidence of the use of milk as a binder. Our analyses show that this ochre-based mixture was neither a hafting adhesive nor a residue left after treating animal skins, but a liquid mixture consisting of a powdered pigment mixed with milk; in other words, a paint medium that could have been applied to a surface or to human skin. The significance of our finds also lies in the fact that it establishes the antiquity of the use of milk as a binder well before the introduction of domestic cattle in South Africa in the first millennium AD.

PMID:
26125562
PMCID:
PMC4488428
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0131273
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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