Anyone know the significance of Ochre, and why it was placed in the graves of our ancestors? Also, anyone know of a good place to purchase the stuff?
I'm not sure if the ochre material itself was significance or it was the color/pigment of the ochre that was important. In theory, ochre could've have just been the easiet material early man found it could use for such a purpose. The 'ochre burial ritual' is quite possibly over 100,000 years old. It was one of the oldest pigments/materials used by human beings (and before that by Neanderthals) in burial rituals or cave paintings. Evidence of its use is found on several continents during a variety of eras and has not necessarily been native to all of the areas.
Two articles re: 100k yr old ochre use:
--"The red ochre meant something to them, exactly what we do not know, but it is not inconceivable that they painted their dead with red ochre," says Erella Hovers. "It is an example of symbolic thought, the ochre symbolised death. The humans at this time behaved in a way that was not just functional but symbolic as well," she added. [My note: I've also heard it speculated that ochre use symbolized life or the afterlife]
More recently, in Denmark 6500 yrs ago, a man was found with red ochre scattered around his head. http://museums.ncl.ac.uk/flint
I would love to get my hands on this article: M. Porr and K.W. Alt, The burial of Bad Dürrenberg, Central Germany: osteopathology and osteoarchaeology of a Late Mesolithic shaman's grave, International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 2006.
----The abstract mentions that within the grave was a piece of red ochre and split roe deer metatarsus that was probably used to apply the pigment. On various other websites found through googling, there were multiple mentions of deer bones or antlers being covered in ochre and placed in graves. http://www.spoilheap.co.uk
I found this thread:http://forum.skadi.net/showthre
is an online catalog where you can purchase various colors of ochre.
So maybe it's the red pigment that meant something to them, maybe it was somehow connected to the ritual use of beer bones/antlers, maybe the actual ochre material coming from the earth as it did symbolized something to them...