Use-wear markings created on experimental ochre pieces during grinding, scoring and rubbing activities.

  • Author: Tammy Hodgskiss
  • Topic: Theory and method
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

  Ochre pieces were used for a variety of grinding, scoring and rubbing activities to establish the use-wear markings that each activity creates on the ochre piece. Several techniques and materials were used, and the resultant use-wear markings were then compared in order to determine whether the markings are distinguishable. Macro- and microscopic recordings of the usewear marks on experimentally ground, scored and rubbed ochre has resulted in the creation of a unique comparative collection. Ochre that is ground on coarse or fine-grained rock develops parallel striations that cover the surface of the piece and have unfrayed ends. These striations always have microstriations within them, unless the ochre is moist when ground. Grinding is the only activity that results in significant changes to the surface shape of the ochre. Scoring ochre creates incisions that are miscellaneously oriented and that often do not reach all the edges of the used surface. Many incisions have frayed terminations showing that the incision was created by multiple scoring strokes. Bone and wood are soft and therefore do not create significant incisions on most ochre pieces. Grooves created through grinding and scoring have microstriations within them and show a range of profile shapes. The most common use-wear from rubbing ochre on animal hide, human skin, human hair and wood is smoothing, edge rounding and polish, although incisions and microstriations also occur occasionally. Residues are often left on the ochre piece after rubbing and scoring with organic materials. Distinct use-wear markings are created during the various activities and by the use of different materials. A comparative collection is now available for use with archaeological collections of ochre and it will be possible to test hypotheses about some of the suggested and contested uses of ochre in the past.

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