Red ochre is a naturally occurring earth pigment which gains its colour from hydrated iron oxide (rust). Other impurities give it tones ranging from yellows to purples. Ochre has a rich artistic history which goes back into prehistory: Blombos Cave outside Cape Town in South Africa has designs drawn on its walls in red ochre which date back around 75000 years.The cave paintings at Lascaux, France, are largely executed in ochre.

More recently, in the 18th Century, English fishing boats had their sails ‘barked’ with a mixture of tar, oak bark liquor, fat, and ochre, in order to protect the fabric from sea water.This had the side effect of staining them a deep red- the same colour as these garments.


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