The use of mineral pigments, in particular red ochre, is currently at the centre of the debate on the origin of modern humans and cultural complexity. The earliest secure evidence of ochre use is found at 400,000 year-old archaeological sites in Africa and Europe. At these sites, iron-rich rocks are modified by grinding, scraping, rubbing and knapping to produce red powder. In some cases, modified ochre pieces were used as crayons. Traces of ochre processing in the form of ochre fragments and ochre processing tools are found a most Middle Stone Age sites from Southern and East Africa after 160,000 years ago, but information on how and why this material was used by past populations is still scant. The analysis of ochre still in use by traditional societies is essential in this context. In this documentary, researchers from the University of Valencia, Bordeaux and Bergen present the results of their research on Palaeolithic and present-day ochre use in Ethiopia. They focus their attention on the famous archaeological site of Porc-Epic Cave, Dire Dawa. They also document ochre gathering, heating, processing, mixing with other ingredients and use for hair treatment by Hamar women, as well as the role of this material in the Hamar culture.
A Film by Daniela Rosso
Scientific advisors: Daniela Rosso and Francesco d’Errico
Sound and image editing: Olivier Moulaï
Images on Hamar women: Daniela Rosso
Images on Ovahimba women: Francesco d’Errico and Loïc Quentin
Interviews: Alain Queffelec
Voice off: William Fletcher
Informants: Buno Goffa and Ballo Aysire Music composition, performance and recording: Alex Fermanis MT-BC
Acknowledgements: Renzo Rosso, Ana Herrero, Loïc Quentin, Martine Regert, Ana Rosso, Valérie Fromentin, Catherine de Noter, François Orange.
Funding: APOSTD research grant (CIAPOS/2021/94; Generalitat Valenciana, Spain); Juan de la Cierva-Formación Research Fellowship (FJC2018-035605-I; Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Spain); Fyssen Foundation, Labex LaScArBx cluster of Excellence, University of Bordeaux, France; Grand Programme de Recherche Human Past, University of Bordeaux, France; Programme Talents of the University of Bordeaux Initiative of Excellence, France; Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour, University of Bergen, Norway
Institutions: Departament de Prehistòria, Arqueologia i Història Antiga, Grupo de Investigación Prehistoria del Mediterráneo Occidental (PREMEDOC), Universitat de València, Spain Université Côte d’Azur, CNRS, CEPAM, Nice, France CNRS – PACEA UMR 5199, Université de Bordeaux, France Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour, University of Bergen, Norway
Production: University of Bordeaux