have seen cave paintings where the splashy red pigment was used to
create images by ancient humans in present-day Europe tens of thousands
of years ago. Scientists have said that ancient humans used it generally
in Europe about 40,000 - 60,000 years ago, in West Asia as long ago as
100,000 years, and by the ancients in Africa as long ago as
200,000-250,000 years. Now, a new study suggests that Neanderthals were
also using it in the present-day Netherlands region of Europe as far
back as 200,000-250,000 years ago, if not earlier.
The study, conducted by a team of scientists led by W. Roebroeks of
Leiden University, examined and analyzed a sample of red material
retrieved from excavations originally conducted during the 1980's at the
Maastricht-Belvédère Neanderthal site in the Netherlands. The
excavations exposed scatterings of well-preserved flint and bone
artifacts that were produced in a river valley during the Middle
Pleistocene full interglacial period. During the coarse of the
excavation, soil samples were also collected, a typical procedure when
excavating a site. Within the soil samples were traces of a reddish
material. The samples were subjected to various forms of analyses and
experimentation to study their physical properties. They identified the
reddish material as hematite
, a common mineral form of iron oxide that was used for pigmentation by prehistoric populations.
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