Andrew Michael Zipkin

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Illinois, Urbana, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9305

Approve Date

April 19, 2016

Project Title

Zipkin, Dr. Andrew Michael, U. of Illinois, Urbana, IL - To aid research on 'The Ethno-Archaeometry of Ochre Source Exploitation Practices in Kenya'

ANDREW MICHAEL ZIPKIN, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois, was awarded funding in April 2016 to aid research on ‘The Ethno-Archaeometry of Ochre Source Exploitation Practices in Kenya.’ Humans have used ochre mineral pigments for symbolic expression for hundreds of thousands of years. This work bridged archaeology, ethnography, and geochemistry to investigate ochre use in Stone Age and present-day Kenya. In 2015 and 2016, Maasai and Samburu guides identified traditionally used ochre deposits, and rock art sites with images painted using ochre from known sources. Previously unrecorded Maa language terms for ochre, and information about criteria for pigment selection, techniques of pigment preparation, and symbolism associated with ochre sources, were collected. This project primarily focused on refining multiple minimally destructive chemical techniques for determining the geologic source of ochre artifacts. Sourcing studies of ochre are a young area of research with great potential for investigating the object biography of pigment artifacts and place biography of rock art sites. An ochre source reference collection of elemental ‘fingerprints’ for over 40 Kenyan deposits was constructed and it was determined that all sources can be divided into two major groups on the basis of just two elements. Case studies of Middle and Later Stone Age, and Neolithic, archaeological ochre from the sites of Olorgesailie, Ol Tepesi Rockshelter, and Njoro River Cave demonstrated the feasibility of regional and local scale ochre sourcing.