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Ancient ‘crayon’ suggests colorful prehistoric world

A newly discovered 10,000-year-old “crayon” may have helped prehistoric ancestors color their world, according to archaeologists at the University of York in England.

The crayon-like tool comprised of reddish ocher, a natural mineral pigment, measures 22-mm long (not quite an inch) and 7-mm wide. It was found around an ancient lake in North Yorkshire, England.

A striated ocher pebble adds to theories that the prehistoric world was a colorful one.

A striated ocher pebble adds to theories that the prehistoric world was a colorful one.

(Paul Shields/University of York)

Also uncovered: an ocher pebble of the same hue with a striated surface suggesting it was scraped to produce a red pigment powder, scientists said in their study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

The region is rich in prehistory and is one of the most famous Mesolithic sites in Europe. They noted that the recent finds help “build a bigger picture of what life was like in the area; it suggests it would have been a very colorful place,” they said.

Archaeologists discover 10,000-year-old crayon in England

Scientists' finds in England may be predecessors of Crayola crayons.

Scientists’ finds in England may be predecessors of Crayola crayons.

(DAN LOH/AP)

“One of the latest objects we have found looks exactly like a crayon; the tip is faceted and has gone from a rounded end to a really sharpened end, suggesting it has been used,” reported University of York archaeologist Andy Needham in a statement.

“Color was a very significant part of hunter-gatherer life and ocher gives you a very vibrant red color,” Needham added. “It is very important in the Mesolithic period and seems to be used in a number of ways…. It is possible there could have been an artistic use for these objects, perhaps for coloring animal skins or for use in decorative artwork.”

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