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At the end of the last ice age, Indigenous miners in what is now the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico risked life and limb — venturing into pitch dark caves illuminated only by fire — to extract a prized mineral, a new study finds.

That mineral wasn’t gold or diamonds, but red ochre, a valuable crayon-like pigment that prehistoric people used for both ritualistic and everyday activities, including rock paintings, burials and possibly even insect repellent. 



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