The Preferential Collection and Use of Ochre Pigments and Iron Ores at Twin Rivers Kopje, Zambia


Twin Rivers Kopje, Zambia is a Middle and Later Stone Age site first excavated by J. Desmond Clark that has yielded extensive evidence of mineral pigment collection and use dating to as old as 300,000 years ago. In this study, we sampled pigment sources within 25 km of Twin Rivers for digital colorimetry and trace element fingerprinting using Laser Ablation - Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry. In addition, all pigment excavated from the site by Clark was analyzed for sourcing. Multiple ferruginous minerals are represented in the pigment assemblage; notably, the visually striking mineral specularite was found to have been preferentially abraded in contrast to hematite and other iron minerals which were predominantly flaked. We propose that this is due to the metallic reflective qualities of specularite and its red-purple streak which contrasts with the dull red-brown of hematite. Surveys identified a major source of vein mineralization specularite 19 km northwest of the site at Sanje Hill. Multivariate statistical analysis of trace element fingerprints assigned a number of pigment artifacts to this source with high confidence, suggesting that other iron oxide deposits closer to the site were ignored in favor of this prominent source of high quality pigment.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

The Preferential Collection and Use of Ochre Pigments and Iron Ores at Twin Rivers Kopje, Zambia. Andrew Zipkin, Alison Brooks, John Hanchar, Kathy Schick, Nicholas Toth. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397262)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;