Origins of ordinary things: Paint

Paint makes things come alive. It makes buildings look beautiful, it makes drawings evoke emotion, and it can be used to create ambiance. Additionally, it protects surfaces.

The use of paint is ancient. According to Wikipedia the online encyclopedia, South African archeologists found a 100,000 year-old mixture that is believed to have been used as paint. Different archeologists have, from time to time, also found cave paintings made by early humans as far back as 40,000 years ago.

Since paint brushes didn’t exist in prehistoric times, people used moss, chewed ends of branches and their own fingers. All the ingredients for making paint were organic. They included charcoal, bones, clay, and earth pigments. This is according to Mocomi, a children’s online education website.

Painting was important because early humans thought colour to be magical and medicinal and as such, it was used for healing purposes in ancient Egypt. Ancient colour healing as defined by The Power of Color, a website dedicated to information about colour, was done by using colored glass to focus on and penetrate a certain part of the body using sunlight.

Ancient Egyptian practitioners also used the color of pulses, skin complexion and the appearance of body tissues to diagnose illnesses. This method was later used by Greeks, Romans, Chinese and later, Europeans.

For a long while, paint was solely made of organic material. The first change in the components of paint happened in the fifteenth century. According to the Natural Paint Company, in 1410 Flemish artist Jan Van Eyck introduced oil paint.

The commercial use of paint started in 1868 with oil-based paint being the only kind on the market. It contained lead, mercury and other toxins that are harmful to both human beings and the environment. Because of that, many developments were made over the century to improve the quality of paint.

Today, it is possible to move into a newly painted building without feeling the unsettling and previously intoxicating smell of paint.

However, the durability of modern paint in comparison to ancient paint is yet to be ascertained. Paint from ancient times lasted for millennia. It is hard to tell if the same can be said of the paint that is currently being manufactured.

However, just like ancient times, paint is used for healing purposes. In this regard, research has shown that certain colours have therapeutic ability. For instance, some scientists recommend that critical care units be painted with blue, violet or green because the colours are soothing and are likely to reduce stress.