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Merriam Webster defines pigment as a substance that imparts black or white or a color to other materials; especially: a powdery substance that is mixed with a liquid in which it is relatively insoluble and used especially to impart color to coating materials (as paints) or to inks, plastics and rubber. (Merriam Webster 2012) But long before Merriam Webster and manufactured inks, plastics or rubber were invented, pigments were extremely valuable to humanity. From the beginning of time, man has used pigments to leave his mark on the world. Even though no one person, civilization or era can be credited with the discovery of pigments, pigments are definitely one of mans greatest innovations. The oldest known man made pigment factory dates back 100,000 years at the Blombos cave in South Africa. (CNRS, 2011) In 2008 the first pigment tool kit was discovered. The kit consisted of a large abalone shell which was covered in a thick layer of red ochre and contained fragments of pigment and quartz flake. The kit also contained a quartz slab and quartz flakes exposing pigment residue, and traces of use as grinders and crushers. An elongated bone found was assumed to have been used to mix and apply the pigment completed the set. Researchers have been able to replicate the recipe developed by this civilization and have determined the recipe consist of rocks high in hematite and goethite levels that had been ground into a powder and mixed with bone marrow as a binding agent, and stored in the abalone shell. This workshop is the oldest evidence of the production and preservation of pigments. Even though the oldest pigment factory dates back 100,000 years, the oldest known preserved cave art only dates back 40,800 years ago. This cave art is the depiction of hand stencils joined by a red disk, found in the El Castillo cave along the northern Spain Cantabrian sea coast. (Than, 2012) This finding gives credence to the idea that Neanderthals may have been more civilized than once thought. This finding suggests the possibility that they were not the brute savages previously suspected. In recent years, the discovery of pigments, tiny art tools and objects and what may be body paint have been found at Neanderthal sites, challenging the idea that they were incapable of creating art. So, even though we cannot pinpoint the discovery of pigments or their uses we can definitely give credit to the Neanderthals for the earliest known uses of pigments dating as far back to the prehistoric era. Many civilizations contributed to the development and uses of pigments. The 3 civilizations that made early contributions were the Egyptians, the Chinese, and the Greeks. The ancient Egyptians not only used pigments to decorate their walls, tombs and temples but used them to develop make up to decorate their bodies. Their use of ancient pigments to decorate their faces and their development of means to fixing vegetable dyes to white translucent powder (lake making), laid the groundwork for our modern cosmetic market. Perhaps their most famous contribution was the creation of the pigment “Egyptian blue” .The ability of natural dyes to color textiles has been known since ancient times. Even in the bible, in the book of Exodus, there is a reference to scarlet colored linen. The earliest written record of the use of natural dyes was found in China in 2600 B.C. (Drudging) The Greeks have used pigments to create murals on some of the most famous art work in the world. But a significant contribution they made was the manufacturing and use of the encaustic painting technique. This is a technique where earth pigments are mixed with a hot wax or wax resin and then the work is passed over with a heat element until the brush strokes fuse into a uniform film. (Douma) Even though the technique is not popular today it is still recognized as one of the ancient skilled art forms of painting. Theses civilizations used pigments to enhance life and art during their time and their contributions are still recognized today. Though the beginning life of pigments is still a mystery, some of the developments of pigments are not. In 1704, a German color maker named Heinrich Diesbach was manufacturing red lake pigments, which required the use of potash as an alkali. He ran out of his supply and used a supply that was contaminated with animal oil. Instead of getting red, he got purple, then blue and the first chemically synthesized color, Prussian blue, had been created. (Windsor and Newton) In 1856, William Henry Perkins was a student at Royal College of Chemistry. In his impoverished laboratory, he was trying to synthesize quinine when he accidentally produced a purple dye from oxidizing impure aniline with potassium dichromate. Maurine, the first organic (based on carbon chemistry) was developed. This led to the distillation of coal tar which produced a huge range of new pigments over the decades to come. The next decades brought about many more colors by juggling chemicals on purpose as well as by accident. With the beginning of new processing and opportunities for trade in every quarter of the world, combined with the demand for new colors and the ability to access new colors exploded. As technology evolved so did the forms of pigment. There is a pigment compound in every water color, acrylic paint, oil paint, pigmented ink, dye, and color coating known to man. Regardless, if it comes in a stick, a tube, a can or a bucket, if it contains color, it contains some type of pigment. Just as there are different varieties of pigments, there are even more forms of pigments, And an infinite use of pigments. With the advancement of civilizations and the growth in technology we have graduated from the initial use of pigments on the walls of caves to the use of pigments in just about every area of lives. We use pigments in art to create beautiful portraits and landscapes. We use pigments to paint and beautify houses, cars, boats, and airplanes. We use pigments to make foods and drinks coloring look more festive and attractive. We use pigments to color our nails, hair and lips. Pigments are necessary for the dyes, inks and paints we use to color and tint fabrics, plastics, rubber, glass, and metals. Pigments have even found their way the most inconspicuous of places like our perfumes, medicines and electronic technology. There is not one aspect of our lives that has not been affected by pigments is one way or another. Pigments are connected to humanity by way of the arts, the sciences, and technology. Pigments give things color. Color can be beautiful, intense and even whimsical. The arts show us that through the paintings and uses of color found in the many museums of the world. Pigments can be scientific as the scientist proved as they accidentally discover never before colors through the mixing of scientific compounds. Pigments have proved themselves as worthy components in electrical technology when they are used to create images on printers or screens. The study of pigments can be an adventure through time. As we have come to know that they were available and being used even in the prehistoric era. From the prehistoric times unto the contemporary age we have used pigments to chronicle the lives of man, and the history we created. Although we no longer use pigments to record history on the walls of caves, we still use pigments to create art and develop beautifully colored creations to tell our story and leave our mark on the world.

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