Near the city of Dire Dawa, Porc-Epic has long been a focus of study because of the variety of rocks characterized by a red or yellow color or streak, known as ochre, found there. The site has yielded the largest collection of ochre currently known in East Africa, weighing 40 kg (n = 4213 pieces), found during excavations of 49 m2 over a depth of approximately 3 m and currently reside in a museum in Addis Ababa.
Middle Stone Age ochre processing tools reveal cultural and behavioral complexity
On May 24, researchers Daniela Eugenia Rosso of the University of Barcelona and Francesco d’Errico and Alain Queffelec of the University of Bordeaux in France published a paper, “Patterns of change and continuity in ochre use during the late Middle Stone Age of the Horn of Africa: The Porc-Epic Cave record,” in the PLOS ONE journal.
They found that ancient visitors to the site processed the iron-rich ochre stones there by flaking and grinding the raw materials “to produce a fine-grained and bright red powder.” The ochre stones can be used to produce powders of varying coarseness, in shades of yellow, orange, red, brown, and gray.