The First Cosmetics Counter: 100,000 B.C.E.

by Tim Young

Blombos Cave Location

In a cave in South Africa, archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the first factory for making  paint, most likely for personal adornment. Makeup.

Prehistoric paint potAbalone shell and grindstone with red ochre

l. Prehistoric paint pot; r. abolone shell and grindstone with red ochre

Apparently ancient cosmetopigmentologists  (not a real word) set up shop about 100,000 years ago, in Blombos Cave, near Cape Town.

100,000-year-old ochre toolkit

100,000-year-old ochre toolkit

There they not only made body paint but sold it to other couture-conscious cave dwellers, as signs of trade and commerce are in evidence in the cave. Retail.

Early cash register?

Early cash register?

(Apparently Mary Kay and Avon-like ”door-to-door pyramid-structure” cosmetics sales would come much, much later. After doors were invented. And pyramids.)

What were the hot makeup colors of the Middle Stone Age? Seems that earth tones were big back then. Ochre and charcoal were top sellers.

But I’m still waiting to hear: What was the Color of the Year for 100,000 B.C.E?

Image of Blombos Cave courtesy Magnus Haaland via Popular Archaelology