Hints 'n' Tips

100,000 Years of Red

Humans have been making paint for a long time. A very long time. As described in an article in a recent issue of the journal Science, a cave in South Africa has yielded paint “tool kits” that date back a hundred thousand years (pushing back the date for the earliest known artistic production forty thousand years). Within view of the Indian Ocean, someone in that cave crushed soft red rocks rich in ochre, mixed the pigment with charcoal and animal marrow, and used it as paint. Ever since, humans have been looking for the materials and process that will expand the range of their palette and durability of their colors. In some respects, the process has changed little: we still mix dirt with a natural bonding agent to make paint. Science, on the other hand, has also provided us with some exciting new colors for our palettes.

In the November 2011 edition of 15 Bytes Michael Rusnack looks at the chemical properties of the Quinacridone colors.

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