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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/376

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366
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

same group as red, and belongs to a neighboring part of the spectrum, even this phenomenon can scarcely be said to clash seriously with the general uniformity.[1]

If we turn to Australia, whither the anthropologist often turns in order to explore some of the most primitive and undisturbed data of early human culture still available for study, we find the preference for red very well marked. In times of rejoicing the tribes at Port Mackay, Curr remarked, paint themselves red; in times of mourning, white. In describing the paintings and rock carvings of the Australians, Mathews states that red, white, black and occasionally yellow pigments were used, precisely the four pigments which Karl von den Steinen found in use in Central Brazil. Prof. Baldwin Spencer and Mr. Gillen, in their valuable work on the natives of Central Australia, have pointed out the significance and importance of red ochre. One of the most striking and characteristic features, they say, of Central Australians' implements and weapons is the coating of red ochre with which the native covers everything except his spear and spear-thrower. The hair is greased and red-ochred, and red ochre is the most striking feature in decoration generally. For ages past the Australian native has been accustomed to rub this substance regularly over his most sacred objects, and then over ordinary objects.

There is, however, no need to go so far afield in order to illustrate the primitive use of red ochre. Our own European ancestors followed exactly the same methods, and the German woman of early ages used red and yellow ochre to adorn her face and body, while the finds of the ice age at Schussenquelle, described by Praas, included a brilliant red paste (oxide of iron with reindeer fat) evidently intended for purposes of adornment. Moreover, the early artists of classic times had precisely the same predilections in color as the aboriginal Australian artists. Red, white, black and yellow are the dominant colors in the Iliad, and Pliny mentions that the most ancient pictures were painted in various reds, while at a later date red and yellow predominated. He also mentions that yellow was the favorite color of women for garments, and was specially used at marriages, while red being a sacred color and apt to provoke joy, was used at popular festivals, in the form of minium and cinnabar, to smear the statutes of Jupiter.

This well-nigh universal recognition of the peculiarly intense emotional tone of red is reflected in language. The color words of civilized and uncivilized peoples have been investigated with interesting and on the whole remarkably harmonious results. It is only necessary here to refer to them briefly in so far as they are related to our present subject.


  1. A further partial exception is furnished by the tendency to prefer green which may be found in certain countries, now or formerly Mahommedan, such as North Africa and to a large extent Spain, which have an arid and more or less desert climate.