80,000 years or more ago South African archaeologists believe that the native inhabitants of the Blombos Cave were using red ochre for body paint.
The tradition has descended to its use by the Maasai in Kenya to the present time. It does not seem to have been a tradition with those that came across from Siberia via Beringia, and thence into Western America.
No, it was the small bowl of red ochre that sits by the mother’s feet, and the red paint that covers the young maiden as she moves through the ceremony. Back in the time that Europeans arrived in the Americas for the last and culture-changing time, the first Native Americans that they met wore little more than a coating of red paint, the Beothuk, being one such example.
It is a tradition that Robert Griffing has used in his paintings of the period. Face painted warrior (After Griffing – Logan’s Revenge) The use of red ochre – mixed with or applied over a grease is not, however, novel to the American tribes of the more recent past.
Instead those known as the Red Paint People now more scientifically referred to as the Maritime Archaic, appeared in the New England and Atlantic regions of Canada between 6,000 and 3,000 BP (years before the present).
They first came to prominence when a local farmer turned up pockets of red ochre, and it was then discovered, first that there were polished stone tools within the pod of paint, and then further discoveries also found human remains, showing that the bodies had been buried with pots of ochre in the grave.
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