ANDREW M. ZIPKIN, then a graduate student at George Washington University, Washington, DC, received funding in October 2012 to aid research on 'Material Symbolism and Ochre Use in Middle Stone Age East-Central Africa,' supervised by Dr. Alison S. Brooks. The discovery of ochre pigments at African Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites has been widely interpreted as relating to the onset of modern human symbolic behavior. However, an alternate hypothesis holds that ochre's first function was technological rather than symbolic. This project asked, 'When routine human acquisition of ochreous minerals began during the MSA, was this activity motivated primarily by symbolic or technological considerations?' Using ochre artifacts from the site of Twin Rivers Kopje, Zambia, as well as samples of mineral pigment deposits from Zambia, Kenya, and Malawi, this project refined geochemical methods of matching ochre artifacts to their source on the landscape. In addition, ochre streak colorimetry combined with analysis of how ochre artifacts from Twin Rivers were modified by humans determined that pigments with a saturated purple color were preferentially modified by grinding, likely to produce powdered pigment, relative to other types of ochre available near the site. Finally, an experimental archaeology study of ochre and resin adhesives determined that ochre fillers do not yield a significantly stronger adhesive than other widely available minerals like quartz, indicating that the documented use of ochre in the hafting of composite tools in the MSA was likely motivated by visual considerations.
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
George Washington U.
Zipkin, Andrew Michael, George Washington U., Washington, DC - To aid research on 'Material Symbolism and Ochre Use in Middle Stone Age East-Central Africa,' supervised by Dr. Alison S. Brooks