painting kits from 100,000 years ago, and today

abalone shell art kit

photo © science/aaas

Remember the beautiful Chauvet cave paintings we wrote about a few months ago? Well every artist needs his or her toolkit, and archeologists recently discovered what appear to be “artist kits” in a South African cave. The kits, which date back 100,000 years, are made of abalone shells, perfect for holding and transporting essential painting materials: a quartzite stone for grinding up pigments like charcoal and ochre – which produces rich reds and yellows – and the pigments themselves. The ground pigments were poured into the shell and mixed with a liquid to make paint. One of the kits held a slender bone from the front leg of a wolf or dog with one end dipped in ochre: a possible paint brush. The kits are the first known instance of homo sapiens compounding a painting medium. Charcoal and ochre are the same materials used in the Chauvet cave, but those paintings are only 30,000 years old.

The desire to create is built into our very DNA. Our lineage is full of artists…

…and we’re still using red and yellow ochre and charcoal to make art…

prehistoric art kit

photo: grethe moell pedersen

We’re thinking what a gorgeous art kit an abalone shell would make…though hardly practical for most. It got us thinking about the modernday portable watercolor field box our friend Peggy Markel takes on her travels through Italy, Morocco and India. It fits in her purse and holds 24 watercolors and a folding brush, so she can add a drizzle of water and paint…anywhere.

watercolor field paint box


via The Guardian; photos via Scientific American

Thanks Cara!

Related posts: drawing on the wall (cave of forgotten dreams)
making an experimental wall
the role of magic in the creative process
mind bath: jackson pollock at work (by hans namuth)
holton rower’s pour paintings: intention + chance, in color

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