At the beginning of the Iron Age (on whose far edge we still teeter) the Greeks called iron sideros, meaning from a star, the same root as desire. The Sumerians called it an bar, skyfire, referring to the kind of heaven-sent iron that drops to earth in a meteoric flash. The Eskimo simply call it “Woman.”     -Nor Hall, Irons in the Fire

Ochre, yellow, light.
Hematite, blood stone, of the blood, stone that bleeds.
Iron, strength, holy metal.
Oxygen, piercing, sharp, acid, something that produces, creation.
Pigment, color, ingredient, drug.

 

 

Compendium of Ochre Words + Terms

Pigment Name

Region or Language

Color

Stone

Notes

Resource

Otjize, otjizerandu

Himba, Namibia, Africa

Dark Red

Hematite

Exclusively from Otjize, Namibia. Used as full-body make-up and mixed with butterfat and an aromatic resin from the omuzumba bush

Ladies in Red – Mining and Use of Red Pigment by Himba Women in Northwestern Namibia. Gregor Borg and Margaret Jacobsohn from Rot–die Archäologie bekennt Farbe: 5. Mitteldeutscher Archäologentag vom 04. bis 06. Oktober 2012.

letsoku

Tswana, Botswana

Dark Red

Red clay, hematite plus other materials

Used in Botwsana in the hair of traditional healers and mixed with goats fat.

From private communication with South African artist, Hanien Condradie (and African medicine doctor, Colin Campbell).

||ka

Africa/ Khoisan

Red

Ochre

These ochre pigments are said to “key role in the adaptive strategies of H. sapiens.

Ethnographic insight into the prehistoric significance of red ochre.
Riaan F. Rifkin. from The Digging Stick. Vol 32(2). 2015.

tto

Africa/ Khoisan

Red

Red ochre

 

Rifkin, 2015.

Qhang Qhang

Zimbamwa, South Africa

Reds

haematite, or oxidised red ochre mixed with various other iron oxides.

Traditional paint technique, had to be prepared at full moon outside in the open by a woman, who had to heat it until it was red hot and then grind it to a fine red powder. Binder was blood of a freshly killed eland.

Southern African shamanistic rock art in its social and cognitive contexts. J.D. Lewis-Williams. from Archeology of Shamanism. p17-40 Ed. Neil Price.

Wilgie mia

Australia

Deep red

Hematite

Name of material same as name of sacred ochre mines, Wilgie Mia. Mostly from Weld Rrange, Murchison Region, W. Australia

Ochre procurement and distribution on the
central coast of British Columbia. Brandi Lee MacDonald. MA Thesis. 2008

hntj

Egyptian

Red

Hematite

From mines

Crivellaro, P. (2002) I coloranti naturali. In De gypso et coloribus, Nicola, G. L., Ed. Celid: Turin.

Tms

Egyptian

Red

Red or burnt Ochre

From the oasis of Tell el-Amarna

Iron Oxide-Based Pigments and Their Use in History. Marco Nicola, Chiara Mastrippolito, and Admir Masic. From Iron Oxides: From Nature to Application. Edited by Damien Faivre. 2016.

knjt

Egyptian

Yellow/Brown

Limonite

Double silicate of iron 40% + manganese oxide 15%

From the oasis of Dakhla

Faivre, 2016.

Haematite-from-Elefantine

Egypt

Red

Hematite ore

Used in Ebers Papyrus for various remedies

The Papyrus Ebers. Cyril P. Bryan. 1930.

ddym, ddyt

Ugaritic, Egyptian

Red

Hematite or burnt ochre mixed with blood, wine or booze or other liquid substance

Ritual term for red blood substitute. Debate suggests mandrake, or love-fruit, to be another possible translation of the term.

The Ugaritic Baal Cycle. Mark Smith. 2010.

-dm

Hebrew

Red

To be red, rouge, red clay or soil

root word for blood, Adam and other red substances

 

šadānu

Akkadian

Red

Hematite

most likely simply refers to the ore’s ‘(coming) from the mountain’, from Akkadian šadû ‘mountain’ – also mentioned in Assyrian texts regarding breastplate divination using stones.

From The Melammu Project http://www.aakkl.helsinki.fi/melammu/database/gen_html/a0001340.php

rudhira

Sanskrit

Red

   

Btsag, btsag-smug

Tibet

Red, Dark Red

Red earth or hematite

“As stated a rock which is red in colour and found underground. It is used as a pigment and cures bone fever.”

From the Dictionary of Tibetan Materia Medica, as mentioned in, Engaging the Subtle Body: Re-approaching bla rituals in the Himalayas. Barbara Gerke. 2007.

ngang-pa, zhwa-la-ngang-pa

Tibet

Yellow

Limonite

Highly prized for thangkas from Zhwa-la

Tibetan Thangka Painting: Methods and Materials. David P. & Janice A. Jackson. 1984.

Unknown

Dunghuang, China

Red

Hematite

Used in Mogae caves, mined from nearby Hexi region of Gansu

Color in ancient and medieval East Asia. Dusenbury, Mary M. 2015. 

Moo’ic

Chumash Culture, North America

Bright Red

Hematite

Hematite was burnt in situ to make it brighter. The burnt mineral was washed to remove salts and soften bunches within a pasty mass. During summer the natives of the San Diego region collected from the water surface the brownish-red froth formed by the Leptothrix ochracea bacteria, which precipitates iron (III) hydrate. en, they dried it under the sun

Scott, D. A.; Hyder, W. D. (1993) A study of some Californian Indian rock art pigments. Stud. Conserv., 38, (3), 155 – 173.

Navyot

Chumash Cultures, North Americas

Dull reddish color

Hematite

Red hematite.

Technical examination of some rock art pigments and encrustations from the Chumash Indian site of San Emigdio, California. Scott, D.A.; Scheere, S.; Reeves, D.J.

Studies in Conservation 47 #3 (2002) 184–194.

Hilhil, ilil

Chumash,  San Francisco Bay, North America

Red

Hematite

ilil was for body painting

 

Ohat

Yuma, Mohave, North America

Red

Hematite

  

Paa’isval

 

Red

Hematite

Froth collected from moo’ic, burnt on the cortex of Quercus kelloggi or other oak species

Scott et. al. 2002.

Kwer

Maricopa, North America

Red

Red clay

Still used today

From private conversation with Ron Carlos, potter from Salt River Indian Community.

tumbth

Squamish, North America

Red

Red clay (of hematite or ochre)

For ceremonial paint, war paint, face paint.

MacDonald, 2008.

Ci’h

Navaho, North America

Red

Red ochre

From “to red or redden, dyed red”

Colour and Colour Terminology
Author(s): N. B. McNeill
Source: Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Feb., 1972), pp. 21-33

Beni-garao or bengara

Japan

Red

Red earths

Ukiyo-e school (from the late sixteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century)

West Fitzhugh, E. W. (1979) A pigment census of Ukiyo-e paintings in the Freer Gallery of Art, 11, Ars Orientalis ( e Freer Gallery of Art, e Smithsonian Institution, and the University of Michigan, Department of the History of Art) 27–38.

Odo

Japan

Yellow

Yellow earths

 

Fitzhugh, 1979.

Emathita

Persia

Red

hematite or “bloodstone” Fe2O3

1 of the 13 stones from Arabic alchemist Gābir Ibn Hajjān’s Summa perfectionis

What Painting Is. James Elkins. 1999.

Edaus

Persia

Uncertain

either iron ore composed of iron oxide, or iron filings or iron slag

Arabic alchemist Gābir Ibn Hajjān’s Summa perfectionis

Elkins, 1999.

al Sirf

Persia

Red

Hematite (Khumahan)

Could be also, bloodstone, as in jasper. Meant “blood tree” or “red dye” from recipes for curing hangover by drinking hematite

Arab Roots of Gemology. Tifaschi. 12th century.

Terra Adamica

Latin

Red

Red stone, clay, earth

By the term Botri is here signified the Philosopher’s Stone. The red root is the Terra Adamica, called sometimes Magnesia by the wise, and Salt after the purification.”

Hermetic Philosophy and Alchemy ~
A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery. Mary Ann Atwood. 1850.

Perse, possibly from latin “pressus”

Medieval Latin

Range of colors

Unclear

First usage shows it is a synonym for purplish-red blue of hyacinthinus. Last usage says it is the color of ferrugineo (rust). Could mean ‘material of Persian origin.’

Account of term in Colour and Culture. John Gage. 1993.

Rubrica

Latin

Reddish

Natural red ochre (not burnt)

 

The Art of All Colours: Mediaeval Recipe Books for Painters and Illuminators. Mark Clark. 2001 *great description on confusion of terms for alchemical red pigments in general.

Sandyx

 

Light reddish/pink

Burnt red ochre with Lead white (cerussa)

 

Naturalis historia book XXXIII. Pliny. Originally 77 AD.  From Pliny’s Natural History, vol. 159, Chapter 56 (ed. Henderson, J.), Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.

Syricum or scyricum

Latin

Red

Red earth from Scyros

 

Pliny.

Sinopia, Sinope, sinopis, sinopide, pontica, rubrica

Latin

Red

Pure iron-oxide in any earthly form

Originally from Sinope, Turkey

Pliny. Vitruvius, and Theophrastus. De Chirico.

Biffo

Italian

Purple-red

Hematite + indigo

Fresco paintings.

The Craftsman’s Handbook. Il Libro dell’ Arte. Cennino d’Andrea Cennini (trans. Daniel V. Thompson Jr.) 1933. Originally 15th century.

Bolo, bole, bolus, vole, vol

 

Soft red

Red iron oxide + clay

Armenian bole and German bole were most often used for ground and guilding in icons

Field’s Chromatogra- phy; or, Treatise on Colors and Pigments as Used by Artists. Salter, T. W. 1869.

Oligist

Ancient Greek

Red

Hematite or Specularite

Used to describe ochres used in prehistoric cave art.

Four Hundred Centuries of Cave Art. Abbe Breuil. 1952.

Cinabrese chiara

Italian

Light red

Calcium carbonate (chalk) + sinopia (red earth)

For flesh tones and frescoes, from Cennini

Cennini.

Colcothar from Arabic qulqutār

Spanish from Arabic

Red

Synthetic iron-oxide created by heating green vitriol to 500-750C.

Said to be invented from the Arabs. “The name appears to have been derived during the earliest seventeenth century by alchemists who used it to describe metallic residues (OED, 2002). It is possibly a corruption of the Greek for ‘flowers of copper’, chalcanthus, with a similar etymology as copperas (q.v.) referring primarily to the colour of the material rather than its chemistry. “

Pigment Compendium. Eastaugh, et.al. 2004.

Iron Oxides. Faivre et. al. 2016.

Caput Mortuum, caput mortem, cardinal purple, teˆte morte [‘‘death’s head’’],

teˆte de momie [‘‘mummy’s head’’],

teˆte de Maure [‘‘Moor’s head’’

Latin

Red

Hematite

An alchemical term for a particular process that results in ‘useless’ iron oxide as the result of other chemical processes. Also, said to be the mined specifically from iron-oxide found in and around mummies.)

From footnote in Jean-Luc Nancy’s The Ground of Image: “In the nineteenth century, the color was prepared using the remains from mummies, refers to a dark reddish brown (‘‘resulting from the final operations carried out with iron oxide, it is one of the red tones of this metal. It is quite close to English, Venetian, or Indian reds,’’). The term has its origins in alchemy, where it referred to the final residue of a chemical operation, ‘‘that phase of the work when everything seems rotten yet when everything is regenerated.’’

Oxidos rojos de Malaga

Spanish

Red

Hematite/iron-oxide from Andalusia, Spain

Still mined there today

 

Paghonazo, Pabanzo,  Morello, Morello di sale, Morello di ferro

Italian

Reddish pink or reddish purple

Calcium carbonate, hematite and lake.

Also noted as “rust of iron and salt.”

For frescoes?

Cennini.

Pigment Compendium. 2004.

Persian Red

English

Red

Hematite from Hormuz, Iran or Persia

  

Pompeii Red

English

Thin Red

Hematite + madder lake

  

Tarigrad ochre

Constantionple

Reddish

Red ochre

From hermeneias icon manuals paintings for adhesives

The Materials and Craft of Early Iconographers.

Mihaela D. Leonida. 2014.

Rosetta, rossetta

Italian

Pink

Hematite, calcium carbonate

Lighter then cinabrese chiara

Cennini.

Rouge, sanguine, sanguignio

Italian

Very dark red

Dark hematite mixed with other red.

Used to mark the outlines of figures after painting the flesh tones of dead bodies.

Cennini.

Terra di Ercolano

Italian

Bright, glittery red

Hematite with signature traces of Dolomite

 

Faivre, 2016.

Terra di Pozzuoli, Terra Puzzolli, rosso di Pozzuoli

Italian

Reddish

Iron oxide of volcanic origin

 

Faivre, 2016.

Terra gialla abbrucciata

Italian

Orangish yellow or brownish red

Likely a Goethite

 

Faivre, 2016.

Terra de Sienna

Italian

Brownish

Goethite w/ high transparency

 

Faivre, 2016.

Terra verde di Verona

Italian

Green earth

Celadonite and glauconite

From Verona.

Faivre, 2016.

Terra d’Ombra

Terra d’Ombra di Cipro

(Umber Earth)

Italian

Dark brown

Hematite with % pyrolusite

  

Tuscan red

From Italy

Bright red

Hematite + madder lake

 

Faivre, 2016.

Venetian red

From Italy

Brick red

Hydrous ferrix oxide + gypsum

 

Faivre, 2016.

Color di legno

Italian

Brownish

Ochre + black + sinopia

  

Ocres d’Apt, ocres de Vaucluse

From France

Many colors

Goethite, hematite

From the Apt basin in France.

 

He ́matite broye ́e de Puisaye

From France

Red

Hematite

Haematite from Puisaye

Faivre, 2016.

Spruce sker, shotover ochre, oxford stone ochre

From England

Dull yellow

Goethite?

Clay from Oxford.

The Art of Painting: Wherein is Included the Whole Art of Vulgar Painting, According to the Best and Most Approved Rules for Preparing and Laying on of Oyl Colors, London. John Smith. 1676.

Crashway red

English

Red

Hematite from ore deposits

  

Cumberland red

English

Red

Hematite from ore deposits

  

English red, englirod

English

Light Red

A natural hematite, now synthesized from ferrous sulfate and limestone

  

Indian red, Indian Ochre

English

Purple/Red

Hematite from Bengal

  

Morellone

 

Intense Red

Red ochre + coal black

Used in Medieval frescoes as ground layer for blue sky

 

Gros rogue, de rogue, Polvo de ladrillo rojo (Red Brick Dust)

Creole English

Brick Red

Iron oxide from old bricks

Used in Louisana Vodoun hoodoo rituals, apparently as a substitute from traditional African irosun powder.

From modern Red Brick Dust supplier:  creolemoon.com. And from A Creole Lexicon: Architecture, Landscape, People. Jay Dearborn Edwards.

Blue Ochre, blue ashes, verddeterre, blue peat earth, cendre blue, Bergblau ‘mountain blue’, iron blue, terra de Harlem, Haarlems blaauw + others

Various

Blue, Blueish Back, Blueish Green

Vivianite, an iron-phosphate.

Found most often in peat, bones, and other sources of decay. Used by NW Coast Cultures of N. America and 17th-19th century European painters.  Often difficult to identify due to unstable color.

Best source of historical pigment data is from: Shedding some new light on the blue pigment ‘vivianite’ in technical documentary sources of northern Europe. Mark Richter.  In Art Matters Journal, v. 4, 200x.

Ferrum metallicum

Latin

Invisible Red

Hematite ground with lactose sugar and highly diluted

Major mineral remedy in the homeopathic tradition, from early 19th century.

Encyclopedia of Homeopathy. Dr. Andrew Lockie. 2006.

Oxisol (Ferralsol)

Science English

Red, orange, yellow, brown

Iron-rich soils with some amount of minerals hematite or goethite, and aluminum, in form of kaolinite, gibbsite or boehmite

 

Soil Colors, Pigments and Clays in Paintings.  Fiorenzo Ugolini.

Nanophase ferric oxide or hematite

Planet Mars

Red, if viewed from Earth, but yellow at cooler temperatures when on Mars

Particular form of hematite

Found on Mars

Low-temperature reflectivity spectra of red hematite and the color of Mars. Richard V. Morris. 1997 via NASA.

Mars anything

Not Planet Mars

Various

Synthetic iron oxides

Developed in the 18th century, generally meant: an aqueous precipitation of iron salts (sulfates, chlorides, nitrates and acetates) with an alkali (lime, caustic soda (NaOH), potash, etc.).

Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary ad Optical Microscopy of Historical Pigments. Eastaugh et. al. 2013.

 α-Fe2O3

 

Science English

Reddish

Hematite

Modern chemistry term for red ochre

 

SPIONs, IONP, iron oxide nanoparticles

Science English

Various

Iron-oxides of magnetite, hematite, goethite and others

Developed in the 1970s. Many possible applications, particularily in medical imaging.

Ten things you might not know about Iron Oxide Nanoparticles. Heike E. Daldrup-Link. In Radiology v. 284, Sept. 2017.

      
      

 

* Table focuses on red ochre terms, however basic terms for yellow/green/black/blue/purple/pink and other ochre earth colors are mentioned. Compiled from various resources, most significantly:

  1. The series of tables found in Iron Oxides: From Nature to Application (Faivre, 2016), in Chapter 21, “Iron Oxide-Based Pigments and Their Use in History,” by Marco Nicola, Chiara Mastrippolito, and Admir Masic.
  2. Pigment Compendium: A dictionary and optical microscopy of historical pigments. By Nicholas Eastaugh, Valentine Walsh, Tracey Chaplin, and Ruth Siddall. 2013.

Please contact Heidi for more information on sources of particular ochre terms, regions or practices.