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ARC3PAL Essay: Ochre and the African middle stone age record

by Caroline Seawright
Year 3 Essay for Palaeolithic Archaeology at LaTrobe University, July 2014.


Although there are many interpretations of the African Middle Stone Age (MSA), this essay will review the relevant evidence relating to the significance of ochre use during this period. Contention regarding the MSA focusses on whether people of this period were capable of modern human cognition, especially important as the MSA period predates anatomically modern humans. In an effort to understand when behavioural modernity occurred, archaeologists examining the archaeological MSA record, such as the abundance of ochre artefacts, have resulted in differing conclusions. Ongoing debate emphasises ochre use, signifying functional behaviour and beginnings of advanced thought, or ritual behaviour and fully human cognition. Proponents for both sides concur that ochre use could have been both functional and ritualistic. Whether people of the MSA decorated objects or themselves with special colours, created tanned hides, or composite weapons, they can no longer be seen as archaic due to new evidence of growing human cognition throughout the period.

Ochre and the African middle stone age record

Seawright, C , Ochre and the African middle stone age record, Articles by Caroline Seawright, < kunoichi/themestream/ ARC3PAL.html>.

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