02 Colour History

In the oldest Indo-European language, called Sanskrit, rudt-ina meant blood, and the first part of the word can be found again in the Greek e-rythros, which means red. In Latin red means rutilus, in German root, Scandinavian red and English red The old Nordic word ridna means blood and Eskimo red comes from auk which is blood.

In the cave cultures, it is mainly red, ocher and black colors that dominate. For example, in the small medieval town of Santillana del Mar in northern Spain is the Quevas de Alfamira cave, which contains some of the world's most famous prehistoric paintings. Inside the cave, in the light of flickering tallow flames, images of bison, wild boar, deer and horses emerge. Here the colors are red/brown, ochre/yellow and black. 

With astonishing realism, the Cro Magnon artists painted these animals approximately 20,000 years ago. But it is expected that the use of colours goes back even further, approx. 150-200,000 years.

Ice age people buried their dead in red/ochre. Since blood is red and fresh flowing blood meant life, they understood that the colour red distinguished between life and death.

From 4500 to 1400 BC

From around 4500 BC in the Halaf culture in Mesopotamia, the color blue is used for the first time. Egypt already used malachite green as a cosmetic colour. And from about 4000 BC the colour is increasingly used in ceramic statues, buildings and in visual art in both Egypt and Babylonia. The Sumerians, a people from ca. 3000-2500 BC who possibly emigrated from the Indis valley, founded Babylon. And in Babylon the richness of colour was great, they used blue colour from Lapis Lazuli, likewise colours from Chalcedony, Agate, Carnelian besides Gold and Silver and Copper. Later approx. 2000 BC came Turquoise and other minerals.

Then the Phoenicians invent the precious Purple, made from a species of snail. This colour was used for clothing and the Egyptians now used indigo/blue and violet. Colour knowledge goes on to Crete, the Minorian culture, ca. 1600 – 1400 BC, and from there on to Greece.

Up to 400 B.C

The Late Minorian use of strong contrasts such as yellow/light blue or red/blue provides new experiences in the use of colour and Greek culture utilizes this in its unique buildings ca. 600-400 years BC

In the famous temples in Athens such as the Acropolis, in Corinth, Olympia and Delphi, strong colours are used, in fact completely different from the yellow/white colours we know.

Now people have learned to mix colour shades and through the literature we can find many colour names that we use today.