49000-Year-Old Milk Based Paint Discovered In South Africa

By @Guneet_B on
Buried Skeleton Uncovered From Archaeological Site
Workers at an archaeological site excavate ancient human remains in Berlin, August 21, 2008. Reuters/Tobias Schwarz

A team of scientists has discovered an ancient milk-based paint in South Africa. The 49,000-year-old ochre-based sample is believed to have been used by the then South African inhabitants to decorate the walls, stones and even themselves.

The powdered form of the paint was obtained from Sibudu Cave, a form of a rock shelter in northern KwaZulu-Natal, Africa. Modern humans are believed to have inhabited the area during the middle stone age, between 38,000 to 77,000 years ago.

According to the researchers, the use of the ochre-based paint was widely done by the primitive humans that lived nearly 250,000 years ago in Europe and Africa. However, this is the first time in the history that a sample of the paint has been recovered from Africa, the one that could possibly provide a deep insight into the early human establishment.

The mixture of the powdered paint was recovered from the flake of a stone in Sibudu cave. The paint was found preserved on the flake. The researchers believe that the primitive humans used stone as a medium to mix milk and ochre. A detailed chemical analysis confirmed the presence of the protein called casein, which is primarily found in milk.

The researchers suspect that the ancient man probably used to kill the lactating members of the bovid family to obtain the milk for the paint. Kudu, impala, eland and buffalo are a few examples, the researchers say.

“Although the use of the paint still remains uncertain, this surprising finding establishes the use of milk with ochre well before the introduction of domestic cattle in South Africa," said the lead study author, Paola Villa, in a statement. She added, "Obtaining milk from a lactating wild bovid also suggests that the people may have attributed a special significance and value to that product." The details of the discovery have been published in the online journal PLOS ONE.

Contact the writer at: emailtoguneet@gmail.com.