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Middle Stone Age Ochre Processing and Behavioural Complexity in the Horn of Africa

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Middle Stone Age Ochre Processing and Behavioural Complexity in the Horn of Africa

Message  Admin le Sam 10 Déc 2016 - 14:28

Middle Stone Age Ochre Processing and Behavioural Complexity in the Horn of Africa: Evidence from Porc-Epic Cave, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia

Daniela Eugenia Rosso1,2*, Africa Pitarch Martı´ 1,3, Francesco d’Errico1,4 

1 UMR-CNRS 5199 de la Pre´histoire à l’Actuel: Culture, Environnement et Anthropologie (PACEA), Universite´ de Bordeaux, Pessac, France, 
2 Seminari d’Estudis i Recerques Prehistòriques (SERP), Departament de Prehistòria, Història Antiga i Arqueologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain, 
3 Grup de Recerca Aplicada al Patrimoni Cultural (GRAPAC), Departament de Biologia Animal, de Biologia Vegetal i d’Ecologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain, 
4 Evolutionary Studies Institute and DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences, and School of Geosciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa * d.rosso@pacea.u-bordeaux1.fr 

Abstract : 
Ochre is a common feature at Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites and has often been interpreted as a proxy for the origin of modern behaviour. However, few ochre processing tools, ochre containers, and ochre-stained artefacts from MSA contexts have been studied in detail within a theoretical framework aimed at inferring the technical steps involved in the acquisition, production and use of these artefacts. Here we analyse 21 ochre processing tools, i.e. upper and lower grindstones, and two ochre-stained artefacts from the MSA layers of Porc-Epic Cave, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, dated to ca. 40 cal kyr BP. These tools, and a large proportion of the 4213 ochre fragments found at the site, were concentrated in an area devoted to ochre processing. Lower grindstones are made of a variety of raw materials, some of which are not locally available. Traces of use indicate that different techniques were employed to process ochre. Optical microscopy, XRD, μ-Raman spectroscopy, and SEM-EDS analyses of residues preserved on worn areas of artefacts show that different types of ferruginous rocks were processed in order to produce ochre powder of different coarseness and shades. A round stone bearing no traces of having been used to process ochre is half covered with residues as if it had been dipped in a liquid ochered medium to paint the object or to use it as a stamp to apply pigment to a soft material. We argue that the ochre reduction sequences identified at Porc-Epic Cave reflect a high degree of behavioural complexity, and represent ochre use, which was probably devoted to a variety of functions.

Le reste de l'article est en ligne ici :
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0164793&type=printable

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