THINKING COLOR

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The Oldest Color?

What is the oldest color? Scientifically speaking all colors have been around as long as light has been. However, an argument can be made that a color could be the oldest since color carries a cultural weight to humanity. If we were to choose an oldest color based on its influence on culture and human existence, red would certainly be the top contender.

Chevaux Cave, in France, is widely considered to be one the oldest examples of artwork created by human beings. The walls of the cave are decorated with depictions of neolithic life from 25,000 years ago and most are colored in red.

Recently a crayon was discovered in the english West Midlands, this was not a missing crayola but a crayon that dated from around 10,000 years ago. The color of this ancient coloring tool is red.

From the neolithic era to the classical era, red continued to become even more prevalent in human culture. The masters of western europe in this period, the romans, associated red with the planet mars, who was also the roman god of war. War being the preferred method of Roman diplomacy saw legions clad in red tunics carrying red shields unleashed across the western world.    

At the same time the roman legions were spreading across Europe a tradition was beginning in China that continues until this day. Since the early classical era Chinese brides have worn red at their weddings and proceeded to the ceremony on a red carpet. Both of these red symbols are said to bring good fortune and prosperity to the marriage.

In the medieval ages red became the preferred color of royalty, nobility and the all powerful catholic church. Absolute monarchs who believed their power over their subjects was ordained by god had their portraits painted draped in red robes. The Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, was even said to have worn red shoes.

The renaissance saw a vast expansion in the cultural pallet. However, red remained the preferred shade of the most powerful forces in world. Red continued to be associated with royalty and national pride showing itself in the flags of the multitude of new nations founded during this period.  

It is said that history is written by the victors and it would seem that the cultural significance of red may be due in part to this mantra. Although it appeared in the first cultural works of humankind it also seems to be have been the preferred color of the powers that would go on to continue the advancement of that cultural heritage.      

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