Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Jennifer Perry

Reader 2

Sheryl Miller

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© 2012 Simone E. Nibbs


Widely found throughout the archaeological and artistic records in capacities ranging from burial contexts to early evidence of artistic expression, red ochre has been studied in archaeological and art conservationist communities for decades. Despite this, literature discussing binders is disparate and often absent from accessible arenas. Red ochre is important historically because its use can be used to help further the understanding of early humans, their predecessors, and their cognitive capabilities. However, there is not much written speculation on the processes involved in binder selection, collection, and processing. Based on the idea of these three activities associated with binders, I propose a schema for what the use of already prepared and obtained items doubling as binders might look like in the archaeological record. Using an experiment in which I used red ochre mixed with various binders to paint standardized shapes on a rock surface, I propose ways in which more experiments could be done in this vein. I suggest ways in which scales of desirability can be created based on different traits painters might have found important in the binder selection process, such as ease of paint reconstitution, texture of the paint, and the appearance of the paint mixture once on the stone. This research is one small step in the direction of expanding and diversifying the literature on binders in prehistoric paintings, and opening new avenues of conversation about the choices and motivations of early painters.


An experimental archaeology thesis concerning red ochre paint and prehistoric rock art sites.