Painting is the process of applying pigment to a surface. Humans have an innate need to express themselves. When you combine this need for expression with no other means of record-keeping, the result is painting being very popular up until the early 20th century.
Cave Painting May Be Older Than We Think
The oldest confirmed age of a cave painting is 44,000 years old. These paintings can be found in the Franco-Cantabrian region and in the Maros district in Indonesia.
However, art supplies dating back 100,000 years have been discovered in the Blombos Cave in South Africa. The supplies discovered were abalone shells full of ground charcoal and ochre. Charcoal and ochre pigments can be found in younger cave paintings, so it is assumed these were supplies for paintings that either did not stand the test of time or have yet to be discovered.
Egyptians Were the First to Paint Their Rooms
Egyptian history is rich and full of innovation. The hieroglyphics you associate with ancient Egypt were typically carved into stone but could also be painted onto sheets of papyrus.
Egyptians were among the first groups of people to effectively mix pigments with binders such as egg or beeswax. Liquefying and thickening the pigments allowed them to apply these colors in ways that hadn’t been done before.
They commonly applied their pigments to plaster. Egyptians were able to successfully make and use six main colors: black made from charcoal, brown and red of ochre, yellow orpiment, green from malachite, and blue derived from azurite.
King Tut was entombed with paints and paint supplies.
Paint May Have Caused the Fall of the Roman Empire
Mankind has utilized lead in many ways for over 6,000 years. The Romans were the first group of people who mined lead on a mass production scale. Their mines required tens of thousands of slaves to operate.
Lead had many uses in the Roman Empire, but the most dangerous of those uses was in the painting and lining of cookware. Pots and pans painted white with lead would leach the toxic substance into whatever was being prepared. Lead does not break down with heat, so it went straight into the Romans’ mouths.
Although unknown to be poisonous at the time, lead poisoning was a disease of the wealthy. Lead is a neurotoxin. With continued exposure to neurotoxins, a person can experience symptoms such as loss of memory or intellect, delusions, uncontrollable and obsessive behaviors, and other cognitive and behavioral issues. The average Roman was exposed to 300 times more lead than we are today on a daily basis.
As historians have read and analyzed texts that have survived the Roman Empire, there is a distinct pattern of declination in many leaders’ mental health. Since we can’t perform any autopsies to confirm the presence of lead in the bodies of these leaders, nothing can be said for sure. However, it is the opinion of many respected historians that lead was a contributing factor to the downfall of the Roman Empire.
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