Institute of Archaeology
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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90,000-year-old Technicolor

The search for the origins of systematic symbol use and the evolution of this uniquely human behavior has long been a focus of paleoanthropological research. Excavation at the Qafzeh Cave (near Nazareth , Israel), directed by Bernard Vandermeersch ( University of Bordeaux ) and Ofer Bar-Yosef (then at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) uncovered lumps of ochre weighing collectively over 1 kg. Analysis conducted by an international team of archaeologists and geologists indicates that this natural ochre was carefully selected at a specific source several kilometers away from the site for its particular color properties. The recurrent appearance of ochre lumps only in the stratigraphic layers of the cave that also contained human burials suggests the existence of a normative, relatively complex system of color symbolism that was already in use 90,000 years ago.

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