Historical knowledge

Why is ochre found in some graves?

Ochre is found in some Mesolithic graves. It is a natural rust compound, which has a distinctive red colour. As a rule ochre is seen in patches in graves, in adult graves most often at the head and pelvis. There are several theories as to why ochre was used in some Stone Age graves. Some believe that the function of the red ochre was to mark the grave so that no one accidentally dug down into it afterwards. Others believe that the ochre could have been used to tan or colour the skin clothes that the buried people wore. Ochre may also have been used on hair and in body-painting, perhaps in connection with ritual celebrations. It is not possible to clearly establish what the function of the ochre was. The characteristic red colour, however, may have had an important ritual significance in connection with burials.

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