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K. Kris Hirst

Color Pigments

By December 31, 2012

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Our world is a colorful one, and by the Middle Stone Age of some 70,000 years ago, humans were already trying to incorporate colors more closely into our lives. Whether as part of our religious ceremonies, decoration on cave and house walls, used in burials, painted on ceramic pots or made into faience objects, color pigments were as important to our ancestors as they are to us today.

Chauvet Cave Lions
Photograph of a group of lions, painted on the walls of Chauvet Cave in France, at least 27,000 years ago. Photo by HTO

The Guide to Ancient Pigments introduces you to six ancient colors studied by archaeologists and their colleagues in chemistry: Royal or Tyrian Blue, Egyptian Blue, Maya Blue, Chinese or Han Blue, Saffron, and the oldest pigment known to most cultures: Ochre or Hematite. also included is archaeological information concerning the ancient recipes for Maya blue and red ocher.

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