In this article, researcher Curtis Marean refers to Stone Age people using a reddish pigment for “body coloring or other symbolic acts.” What reason is there for jumping to this conclusion? As with cave painting and figurines, there seems to be an undue emphasis on symbolism and a supposition that everything has to have “meaning,” particularly a religious or protoreligious significance. But may people not have used body coloring just for fun? We ourselves often do not know why we do certain things, or do not wish to acknowledge our trivial intentions, and therefore overlay them with deeper significance.

Stephen E. Silver
Santa Fe, N.M.