The Red Ochre Project

The red ochre graves of the Gravettian, which include the site Krems-Wachtberg, are not only a striking series of Palaeolithic burials, but represent a uniform burial practice of Homo sapiens in Europe. Large quantities of colour pigments at the site Krems-Wachtberg were also found in contemporary settlement layers, which could be related to the painted or colour-covered objects of ivory and bone discovered there. These are the oldest evidence of intentional application of paint in the Gravettian of Central Europe.

Mineral colours were sampled from both the burials and the settlement layers for analyses. The aim is to clarify which colour pigments were used, whether or not pigments found in the graves correspond to those used in the settlement areas, how the materials were processed, and if the raw materials can be traced to distinct natural deposits. The analyses are complemented by investigating pigment traces from selected artefacts, e.g. art objects.

X-ray diffractogram of a reddish brown pigment, top right the ground sample on the sample carrier (© V. Hammer, NHM)



  • U. Simon, More painting from the Pavlovian of Krems-Wachtberg (Austria). Hugo Obermaier Society for Quaternary Research and Archaeology of the Stone Age, 58th Annual Meeting in Heidenheim, 28th of March – 1st of April, 2016, Budapest 2016, 61.
  • M. Händel, V. M. F. Hammer, U. Simon, Colourful horizons – assessing the variety of colour pigments processed and applied at the Pavlovian site Krems-Wachtberg. Hugo Obermaier Society for Quaternary Research and Archaeology of the Stone Age, 57th Annual Meeting in Heidenheim, 7th–11th of April, 2015, Erlangen 2015, 37–38.
  • Ch. Neugebauer-Maresch, V. Hammer, Th. Einwögerer, M. Händel, U. Simon, Die gravettienzeitlichen Rötelgräber und die Farbstoffe des Fundplatzes Krems-Wachtberg/Niederösterreich. In: H. Meller, C.-H. Wunderlich, F. Knoll (Hrsg.), Rot – Die Archäologie bekennt Farbe. 5. Mitteldeutscher Archäologentag vom 04. bis 06. Oktober 2012 in Halle (Saale). Tagungen des Landesmuseums für Vorgeschichte Halle 10, Halle/Saale 2013, 135–141.
  • U. Simon, New Evidence of Painting in the Gravettian of Central Europe. In: Hugo Obermaier Society for Quaternary Research and Archaeology of the Stone Age, 54th Annual Meeting in Toulouse, 10th–14th of April, Erlangen 2012, 49.
  • Ch. Neugebauer-Maresch, Rote Farbe im Bestattungsritus der Steinzeiten. In: E. Lauermann, S. Sam (Hrsg.), Drei Farben – Magie. Zauber. Geheimnis, Bedeutung der Farbe über Jahrtausende. Publikation des Urgeschichtemuseums Niederösterreich NF 497, Asparn/Zaya 2011, 26–43.