Ancient pigments were created by all human cultures on earth at least since the early modern humans used ochre to stain themselves, to paint walls and objects, some 70,000 years ago in South Africa. The investigations of pigments have led to some interesting conclusions about how pigments were manufactured and what roles they played in prehistoric and historic societies.
Ochre, a natural pigment which comes in shades of yellow, red, orange and brown, is the first pigment used by humans, in the Middle Stone Age of Africa, at least 70,000 years ago. Ochre, also called hematite, is found all over the world, and has been used by nearly every prehistoric culture, whether as paint on cave and building walls, staining of pottery or other types of artifacts or part of a burial ritual or body paints.
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Cinnabar, also known as mercury sulfide, is a highly toxic natural mineral found in igneous deposits all over the world. The first documented use of the brilliant vermillion color to date is at the Neolithic village of Çatalhöyük, in what is today Turkey. Traces of cinnabar have been identified within burials preserved at the 8,000-9,000 year old site.
I couldn't find a photo from a Çatalhöyük burial illustrating cinnabar use: I suspect evidence is trace amounts really visible in photographs. This vermillion-coated stone sarcophagus is the famous Mayan Red Queen tomb at Palenque.
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Egyptian blue is an ancient pigment manufactured by the Bronze Age Egyptians and Mesopotamia and adopted by Imperial Rome. First used circa 2600 BC, Egyptian blue decorated many art objects, pottery vessels and walls.
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Chinese Purple, also called Han Purple, was a manufactured purple pigment invented in China about 1200 BC, during the Western Zhou Dynasty. Some archaeologists believe that the Zhou dynasty artist who invented the color was trying to imitate a rare of jade. Chinese Purple is sometimes called Han Purple, because it was used in painting the terracotta soldiers of the Qin emperor during the first century BC.
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A color somewhere between blue-violet and red-purple, royal purple was a dye made from a species of whelk, used by the royalty of Europe for their clothing and and other purposes. It was probably first invented at Tyre during the Imperial Roman period of the 1st century AD.
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