Digging deeper in a South African cave that had already yielded surprises from the Middle Stone Age, archaeologists have uncovered a 100,000-year-old workshop holding the tools and ingredients with which early modern humans apparently mixed some of the first known paint.
It is amazing that for 100,000 years we have been communicating our stories in color. We love color and since the middle stone age, we have been trying to create just the right color to help tell a better story. We have come a long way.
The original “paint producers” used different colors of dirt to produce the different hues they used on the walls of their caves. They also found that the wall of the cave weren’t the only places to use color, they painted their faces, bodies, weapons, clothing and almost anything else they wanted to identify theirs or their tribes.
Rock art in South Africa
Over the centuries, we have added significantly to our color palette. As civilization has progressed, so has the need for color. The more complex our societies have become the greater the importance color becomes to us. We use color as a way of identification whether it be our individualism, our career, our school or team affiliation who we are and even for our own safety. As we all know we live in very colorful times.
Of course, as our population grows the need for color also increases. More people mean more of everything else, and everything has to have its color. As our population has grown so have all that goes with producing color. We have become much more specialized and the challenges of color have grown along with everything else.
Gone are the days when the person producing a color is the one who is telling the story. Today the need for a particular hue passes through many hands from the storyteller to the pigment producer. It becomes even more complicated when the storyteller need to tell the same story in many places.
We ask significantly more of the color we use today than we did even 50 years ago, let alone 100,000 years ago. As our color needs have become more complicated so has how we communicate the color we need/want to the producers so we can get it back like we need it. No longer can we just point to a color and say I want that color. It may be a beautiful color but it may not do the job you are asking it to do.
How do you communicate your color needs?