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The World’s First Crayon is 10,000 Years Old

S u m m a r y :
The world’s first ever crayon has been found in England, and it’s 10,000 years old! The findings are published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Artists 10,000 Years Ago

One of the earliest forms of crayons has been discovered in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England, by a team of archaeologists led by Andy Needham from the University of York. This writing tool is thought to have been used by humans some 10,000 years ago to write in colour on their animal skins or to create art, according to the conclusions of the researchers.

The crayon was found together with other artefacts from sites (Seamer Carr and Flixton School House) associated with evidence of prehistoric civilisations; the region to which they belong includes a famous Mesolithic site, Star Carr.

The world’s first crayon. Photo Credits: Paul Shields/University of York.

A Crayon & A Pebble

The ‘crayon’ was found at a site which used to be an ancient lake, but is now covered in peat. It makes 22 mm in length, and 6mm in width. Upon analysis, it was determined that the crayon contained ochre, a mineral pigment known to have been used by hunter-gatherers through the world.

Commenting on its discovery, Needham says:

“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.”

One of its ends appears to have been sharpened. Photo Credits: Paul Shields/University of York.

Furthermore, an ochre pebble was spotted on the other side of the lake; it showed off a striated surface that looked like it might have been scraped to release a red pigment powder. These new findings indicate that ochre might have been collected to be used for a range of applications back during the Mesolithic period.

The ochre pebble revealed a heavily striated surface. Photo Credits: Paul Shields/University of York.

“The pebble and crayon were located in an area already rich in art. It is possible there could have been an artistic use for these objects, perhaps for colouring animal skins or for use in decorative artwork,” says Needham.

Other Artefacts: A Pendant & Headdresses

Further evidence of these ancient peoples has also been recently unveiled: back in 2015, a pendant was recovered from Star Carr, and over 30 red deer antler headdresses were later identified; the latter were probably meant as disguise to be used during hunting, or they might have been involved in rituals conducted by shamans.

A Window into Colourful Mesolithic Life

The recent discoveries open yet another window into Mesolithic life, thereby clearing the mist further from what it might have been like. Commenting on the ochre ‘crayon’, Needham explains that colour played an important role in hunter-gatherer life; evidence suggests that it has been important in the Mesolithic period when it was used for various purposes.

The study author views the crayon as a significant object that “helps us build a bigger picture of what life was like in the area; it suggests it would have been a very colourful place.


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