Archaeologists In North Yorkshire Discover What May Be The World’s Oldest Crayon At 10,000-Years-Old

Prakash HatvalneAP Images

Showing just how intrinsic art is to human civilization, what may turn out to be the world’s oldest crayon, at 10,000-years-old, has recently been discovered by archaeologists just outside of Scarborough in North Yorkshire.

The crayon is ocher in color and is 7 millimeters wide, 22 millimeters in length, and was found in a thick layer of peat in what was at one time an ancient lake. On the other side of the lake, archaeologists also recovered an ocher-colored rock whose surface was extremely striated, according to the University of York, and would have been pressed firmly on objects to have created a deep and earthy red powder.

Ocher is known to have been a highly prized pigment that was once commonly used by prehistoric people, and the latest study conducted by the University of York’s Physics and Archaeology departments suggests that during the Mesolithic era, ocher would have been used for many different things, including the creation of art.

The location where the 10,000-year-old crayon was found has a long and illustrious history when it comes to prehistory, with the Seamer Carr and Flixton School Houses now occupying this space. Also located in this area is Star Carr, a large Mesolithic site which is reputed to be among the most important sites of this era both in the U.K. and Europe.

Over 30 headdresses created out of red deer antlers have been recovered from this location, and a Mesolithic pendant was also discovered here in 2015.

The University of York’s Andy Needham described just how important color would have been to those living during the Mesolithic era, which might explain finding the world’s oldest known crayon at this site.

“Color was a very significant part of hunter-gatherer life and ocher gives you a very vibrant red color. It is very important in the Mesolithic period and seems to be used in a number of ways.”

Dr. Needham also explained that the 10,000-year-old crayon had been sharpened before it was lost to time and poised for art.

“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.”

Finding this ancient ocher crayon means that archaeologists will now look at all of the objects discovered in the area in a new light, which will help them to create a much more vivid picture about what life would have been like for the Mesolithic people who once lived in Yorkshire.

“For me it is a very significant object and helps us build a bigger picture of what life was like in the area; it suggests it would have been a very colorful place. The pebble and crayon were located in an area already rich in art. It is possible there could have been an artistic use for these objects, perhaps for coloring animal skins or for use in decorative artwork.”

If you are interested in learning more about this 10,000-year-old crayon found in Yorkshire, the new study on it has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.