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8 November 2010
Ancient Orcadians decorated their houses with homemade paint

Neolithic people were proud of their houses and enjoyed doing DIY, new research has revealed. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence that shows ancient people from 5,000 years ago painted the insides of their Stone Age homes to brighten the place up. As well as decorating the stone walls, they also painted designs like chevrons and zig-zags on their interiors. They used red, yellow and orange pigments from ground-up minerals and bound it with animal fat and eggs to make their paint, the new research has found.
     Until now experts believed that it was the Romans who were the first to introduce paint to decorate houses to Britain 3,000 years later. Archaeologists made the discovery at the site of a Stone Age settlement on the island of Orkney (Scotland). A neolithic village consisting of 15 small dwellings was first discovered at Brodgar on Orkney in the 1980s. Then last year archaeologists dug up a number of nearby temples that the inhabitants would have worshipped in. Several stones used to form the buildings have now been found to have been painted and decorated by the locals in about 3,000 BCE. It is thought this was actually done to enhance important buildings and may have been found in entranceways or areas of the building which had particular significance.
     Nick Card, of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, said: "We have found seven stones in this ritual centre. Some of them were covered in paint and others appear to have had designs such as chevrons and zig zags painted on. When you think of the Neolithic period you think of a grey, monochrome world. But we have suspected that colour was a part of their world. Paint pots have been found at various other sites before but we assumed this was for personal adornment. But we now know they used it to paint their walls. Earthy colours were used like oranges, yellows and reddy-browns pigments probably derived from various minerals that had been crushed up and mixed with a binding agent such as animal fat or eggs to create this primitive paint. These are the first finds of their kind. A first for the UK if not for northern Europe. It is not yet known if all the walls were painted or if this was reserved for special parts of the building."
     The paint will now be analysed but it is thought it may have been made from hematite mixed with animal fat and perhaps milk or egg. The painted stones are about 3ft wide and 3ins thick.

Edited from Daily Mail, New Kerala (30 October 2010)

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