Around 100,000 years ago, people were already mixing paint, using it to decorate objects and themselves and even storing it, say researchers in South Africa. A cave on the country's Indian Ocean coast has yielded what researchers believe is an ancient artist's studio, where tools were used to mix the reddish pigment ochre with ground bone, charcoal, and water to make paint, reports the Christian Science Monitor.
The find "documents deliberate planning, production, and curation of a pigmented compound, and the first recorded use of containers," and shows that these early humans had an elementary knowledge of chemistry and the capacity for long-term planning, the researchers say. "I think we're going to find that these early people were smarter than we think," an anthropologist tells NPR. "The ultimate purpose of putting something on yourself, your house, your walls is to make a statement about who you are. So it would have been important to identify yourself as a friend." (Read more prehistoric stories.)