York & North Yorkshire

Archaeologists find 10,000-year-old crayon in Scarborough

Crayon found in Scarborough Image copyright University of York
Image caption The crayon was discovered near the site of an ancient lake

An ochre crayon thought to have been used to draw on animal skins 10,000 years ago has been found by archaeologists.

The crayon, which is just 22mm long, was discovered near the site of an ancient lake which is now covered in peat near Scarborough, North Yorkshire.

An ochre pebble was found at another site on what would have been the opposite side of the lake.

The area is near one of the most famous Mesolithic sites in Europe, Star Carr.

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Archaeologists from the University of York found the items at Seamer Carr and Flixton School House.

They were studied as part of a collaboration between the departments of Archaeology and Physics, using state-of-the-art techniques to establish their composition.

The ochre - a pigment made from clay and sand - pebble has a heavily striated surface that is likely to have been scraped to produce a red pigment powder.

Image copyright University of York
Image caption An ochre pebble was found near the crayon

The research team said nearby Flixton was a key location in the Mesolithic period and the pebble and crayon help show how people interacted with the local environment.

Lead author of the study Dr Andy Needham said the latest discoveries help further our understanding of Mesolithic life.

"It is possible there could have been an artistic use for these objects, perhaps for colouring animal skins or for use in decorative artwork," he said.

"Colour was a very significant part of hunter-gatherer life and ochre gives you a very vibrant red colour."

He added: "One of the latest objects we have found looks exactly like a crayon, the tip is faceted and has gone from a rounded end to a really sharpened end, suggesting it has been used."

The research team said previous finds at Flixton include a Mesolithic pendant and more than 30 red deer antler headdresses.

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