Blombos Cave Ochre.

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Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby jonb » Thu Jan 24, 2013 7:14 pm

Image
The objects, dated to at least 70,000 years ago, were recovered from the Middle Stone Age layers at Blombos Cave, a site on the southern Cape shore of the Indian Ocean

I am an artist, my knowledge of archaeology is minimal. However I have a speculation about the objects of ochre found at Blombos Cave that you may find of interest.

I think that the object is not a rock with an image on it, but a tool. My reason for thinking this, is that the objects look like the way I would cut a piece of ochre if I wanted to evenly cover a soft wet or damp material with an even surface of pigment. As I did as a student learning about old techniques in printing.
The cuts in the ochre are like the tracks on a tyre. If you tried to rub the surface of a wet material with a flat piece of pigment, the pigment unless it is of the highest quality will break off, not all as powder, but some will come off as grains and this would produce small lumps which would stop the pigment from evenly coating the surface of the material, also as you rub the pigment across the surface you would get build up of rubbed off pigment around the edges of the ochre. This would mean that the wet surface would not be evenly covered with the pigment, but that there would be smears of pigment on the surface some thick some thin, and it would be hard to avoid there being spots which were not covered at all.
Now you may think of Pastels or chalk drawings, but there is a difference in that the object I think would have been used on wet surfaces. Pastels need no grooves because being dry the artist can blow any build up away from the image, but the pigment from the ochre in contact with a wet surface would be sticky and hard to remove or even out.

However if groves are cut in the pigment the build up of loose bits which have rubbed off are evenly distributed not just at the edges of the ochre, but also evenly in the groves cut into it, meaning the ochre remains in tighter contact with the wet material, a more even rub off of the pigment and thus an evenly covered surface of the damp material.
Knowing that a simple way of tanning the skins of animals is to apply an even surface of ochre, I think this would be a much stronger explanation of what the object is than a nice picture.

I would also point out it is not the sort of image a human would first make. All children across the world develop drawing skills in the same way. They first learn to make marks which are identifiable as objects or people, it is only later they become interested in pattern. Consequently I have to speculate the patterns carved into the ochre are not the first drawings. The consistency of the pattern needed to make this tool depicts an ability to remember and inscribe the pattern which I would say shows its maker as already having the ability to make and remember images.
Looking at the pattern it does not look to me like the maker was particularly interested in making triangular, or diamond patterns, but rather is driven to make all the grooves of the right angle. You will notice how all the grooves are so parallel to each other. Which would aid the even distribution of worn off pigment from the ochre.

The presence of ochre with the dead as depicted in the archaeology would make perfect sense when we think of the pigment being used to preserve skins, the ochre would be seen as a means of preservation.

Lastly I personally think whether this ochre is a drawing or a tool is important. If it is an image it is not well crafted, and would depict a people with rudimentary skills, alternately if it is a tool you can see how well it is crafted for its purpose, and it is not just a tool to achieve an objective, but a tool to make something else; to tan a skin, then what would they have used the skin for? We can only speculate how good craftspeople they might have been.

that's my speculation I would like to know what you think.

Link to conventional explanation of the objects.
http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/02/pr0202.htm
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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby circumspice » Fri Jan 25, 2013 2:45 am

Have you used ochre of similar size & shape, both with & without the incised patterns, to illustrate your hypothesis?
Seeing this demonstrated is far more instructive than pure speculation.
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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby jonb » Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:57 am

circumspice wrote:Have you used ochre of similar size & shape, both with & without the incised patterns, to illustrate your hypothesis?
Seeing this demonstrated is far more instructive than pure speculation.


Yes, but my problem is that I am almost housebound and as such living on a tight income, the laptop I have has no camera so I have no means at the moment of displaying what evidence I have. That is why I am putting out here so that maybe somebody might pick it up and play with it. All that is needed start with is some wet paper with a rough surface and a small block of water soluble pigment (not oil Pastels or chalk) Chinese ink blocks would be a good starting point, but don't have the paper swimming in water just damp enough. If that works then the person could move on to properly creating an ochre and skin experiment if they so wish.
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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby Tiompan » Fri Jan 25, 2013 6:38 am

Jonb , the markings on the Blombos ochre are similar to children"s drawings from all over the world .
See the "Rhoda Kellogg Child Art Collection " . Zig Zags can start at two prior to more human or animal representations and continue to much older .
More importantly the designs on the ochre are not only found in Upper Paleolithic art throughtout the world and in circumstances where it could not be used as a tool i.e. parietal ,
but it is also found in later Mesolithic to Bronze Age rock art , ceramic design and of course present day doodles .
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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby kbs2244 » Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:39 am

Excuse me….????

You are an ARTIST and you think you are qualified to question the opinion of degreed specialists??

I would not surprised your next post is that you know an archer who recognizes those “loom weights”
found in forts (a strange place for a loom) as arrow straighters.
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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby Minimalist » Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:15 pm

I ran into Jonb over at atheist forums and I also suggested the experimental approach.

I guess I come at this from a different direction which is that the same kind of cognition which can symbolically draw a diagram as a "decoration" could also have the reasoning skills to improve an "industrial" process. Let's not kid ourselves. Especially when the late, lamented, Digit was here, we were always making jokes about the tendency for red ochre to turn up in grave sites in disparate parts of the globe. What if it wasn't merely decorative but had an actual purpose.

Short of interviewing the "artist" or "artisan" we'll never know what was in his mind but if cutting grooves makes the process more efficient it would be useful to know to add into the equation.
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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby Tiompan » Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:40 pm

Minimalist wrote:
Short of interviewing the "artist" or "artisan" we'll never know what was in his mind but if cutting grooves makes the process more efficient it would be useful to know to add into the equation.


When the same motif(s) is found on parietal art from the Upper Paleolithic to Bronze Age
and across the world it doesn't negate the possibility of a utilitarian function in this case
but does make it less likely .

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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby kbs2244 » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:51 pm

“When the same motif(s) is found on parietal art from the Upper Paleolithic to Bronze Age
and across the world it doesn't negate the possibility of a utilitarian function in this case
but does make it less likely .”

I don’t know if I completely agree with this idea.

While what is “pretty” may go across cultural, distance, and time lines, so may an idea that is functional.
Especially if it is a tool used by those who make pretty things.

I would not rule out a dual purpose.
A decorative pattern that was found to have a practical purpose.
Or visa versa.
Or even a decorative pattern used as “hidden in plain sight” tool secret passed on to other artists?

Was the idea of a brush used by artists before it was used by house painters?
I don’t know.
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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby Minimalist » Sat Jan 26, 2013 1:13 pm

so may an idea that is functional.


Yeah, I agree kb.

There is a reason why spears have a single point and arrows don't weigh 200 pounds.

If for the sake of argument ( and I don't know...I'm taking jonb's word for it...that red ochre has a useful effect on the tanning process then that would be true everywhere and tanning hides would have been more important that decorating them. This gets to a chicken and egg question. Did the utility of red ochre lead to its later use as a decoration or did someone who was using it for decoration later discover that it helped tan hides?
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby E.P. Grondine » Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:16 pm

HI Jonb - That is an interesting conjecture. I did not know until you and min mentioned it that red ochre had a use in some tanning process.

What is that process?

By the way, I am in need of some help in techniques for making an impression of an inscription. You'll see the thread over in the New World section. If you have any ideas on this or know much about it, please share.
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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby Ernie L » Sat Jan 26, 2013 5:37 pm

kbs2244 wrote:

Was the idea of a brush used by artists before it was used by house painters?
I don’t know.

interesting thought....I have noticed two things about artists..
They are very different from the rest of us..maybe even a different species

second and this is gets to the point of your question..Artists seem to recognize the artistic qualities of utilitarian objects/processes used by craftsmen more than craftsmen recognize the possible utility of an artistic work/process.
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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby Ernie L » Sat Jan 26, 2013 5:40 pm

Minimalist wrote:

If for the sake of argument ( and I don't know...I'm taking jonb's word for it...



This fella seems to have spent quite a bit of effort on the whole red ocher tanning subject.
http://www.academia.edu/2009297/Assessi ... ingredient

with pictures no less
http://www.sahumanities.org.za/Uploads/ ... al_web.pdf
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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby Minimalist » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:06 pm

That paper certainly seems to answer E.P.'s question about the tanning process and I no longer have to accept Jonb's word for it.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby Tiompan » Sun Jan 27, 2013 2:27 am

kbs2244 wrote:“When the same motif(s) is found on parietal art from the Upper Paleolithic to Bronze Age
and across the world it doesn't negate the possibility of a utilitarian function in this case
but does make it less likely .”

I don’t know if I completely agree with this idea.

While what is “pretty” may go across cultural, distance, and time lines, so may an idea that is functional.


The same motif(s) are found on other portable objects that would not have the same utilitarian purpose
and it is not a feature of finds of similar shaped ochre .The example had also been rubbed prior to being inscribed .

George
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Re: Blombos Cave Ochre.

Postby kbs2244 » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:16 pm

So we have evidence on both sides of the argument!
Are we heading for a “How and why did Oetzi die” thread?

And I have to agree that artists are different somehow.
Anybody that has seen what some people do with wrecked car parts and a welder knows that.
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