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Good Reads: Innovation and survival as seen through caveman cosmetics factory, post-Jobs Apple

Today's Good Reads focuses on offbeat news stories, including the discovery of a 100,000-year-old caveman cosmetics factory in a South African cave, and a profile of a young executive at Apple who may keep the creative juices flowing.

By Scott BaldaufStaff Writer / October 14, 2011

A model poses for photographers with a mirror after having makeup applied using historical Egyptian beauty items and toiletries at The Science Museum in London in 2010.

Toby Melville/Reuters


Good Reads highlights the best reporting and analysis available on the top international stories of the day – and other key topics you shouldn't miss.

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Today’s papers reveal a world of today that was very much like the world of yesterday. The global economy is still slumping, Muammar Qaddafi is still on the run, Barack Obama is still miffed about that whole Iranian assassination plot, and Herman Cain is still comparing himself to black walnut ice cream.

When the top stories of the day fail to dazzle, offbeat news features can shine. How offbeat? Try caveman cosmetics.

In The Christian Science Monitor, science reporter Pete Spotts writes about a cosmetics studio dating back 100,000 years or more, discovered in a cave near Cape Town, South Africa. It’s the earliest sign yet that early human beings had moved beyond simple hunter-gatherer survival and had developed the skill to organize, to combine various materials, and apply them to their bodies, presumably to hear their significant others mumble, convincingly, “no really, you look great.”

What makes the Blombos cave discovery, announced in this week’s edition of the British magazine Science, so striking is not the materials – ocher was known to be used by humans for at least as far back as 160,000 years – but rather the tools themselves and the evidence of how much planning and hard work went into producing the ocher, Spotts writes.

The two tool kits were found about 6 inches apart and consisted of grinding stones, stones used as hammers, and abalone shells that the occupants used as mixing containers.

In addition to the tools, the team found raw materials for converting ocher into what they say likely would have been paint: fatty bone, charcoal, powdered and larger-grained ocher, and quartz grains. With the fat from ground bone as a binder, the ingredients could have been mixed with a liquid to form paint.

Spotts doesn’t say it, but the New Scientist’s Andy Coghlan does: the liquid component of the mixture was “probably urine.” Nice one, Adam. Thanks.


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