Archaeologists working on a site near an ancient lake in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, UK say they may have discovered one of the earliest examples of a crayon. The reddish-brown piece of ochre is thought to have been used 10,000 years ago to color animal skins or produce artwork during the Mesolithic period.
The oblong discovery is just 22 mm long and 7 mm wide, yet shows a heavily striated surface where it was most likely scraped to create red pigment. One side of the tool is sharpened, another hint that the piece was used to draw or color. Dr. Andy Needham from the University of York’s Department of Archaeology explained the discovery helps archaeologists understand how significant color might have been to the hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic period.
“For me it is a very significant object and helps us build a bigger picture of what life was like in the area; it suggests it would have been a very colourful place,” said Needham in a press release.
This has been a year of many art historical firsts. Within the last few months our knowledge of Greek civilization has been completely altered by the discovery of this tiny carved stone, and archaeologists found the first known use of a smiley face on an off-white jug in Southern Turkey. You can read more about the discovery of the ochre crayon, and other pieces found near the ancient lake in North Yorkshire, in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.