It appears that red ochre, color based on iron oxide, has been used very abundantly by prehistoric peoples, especially sapiens (Homo sapiens sapiens), but also to a lesser extent, Neanderthals. Examples include the 70k year old ochre processing workshop in Bloombos cave in South Africa, the Lake Mungo burials in Australia 45k years before present, the 33k year old Paviland skeleton in Britain, and in the Americas the Moorehead burial tradition.
It seems striking, how widespread this was in prehistoric sapiens population, so much so that it might be a common cultural trait that was retained for thousands of years from the migration out of Africa and across all continents. There is an old discussion piece from 1980 in the journal "Current Anthropology" with an article by Ernst Wreschner and several comments by various scholars. The article is on the journal's website behind a paywall or free on the website of one of the authors of one of the comments. While the article points out that red ochre usage was not universal (and only found in a minority of sites except in the Magdalenian and North American Archaic) and some comments are critical with regard to misinterpretation of evidence, you get the impression that this was extraordinarily common in prehistory, until it ceased with the neolithic or bronze or iron age (see Malinowski's comment on p.638). The discussion touches on whether and how this is a common human cultural trait, but also details problems with the collection of evidence and then ventures into the psychology of color perception and interpretation etc.
I was wondering to what extent this is true and this is a remarkable common cultural trait of prehistoric sapiens, common across all continents and times, even though it was clearly not universal. And whether any new evidence or insights have emerged since this discussion was published in 1980.
To explain: It would be much less impressive, if the abundance of evidence for red ochre is spurious (either because of misinterpretation of naturally occurring red ochre or because of the discussion is based on cherrypicked evidence and ochre was actually not found in almost all prehistoric sites). It would also be less impressive if red ochre is simply the only abundant dye that is available to humans with prehistoric technology (then the common cultural practice would only be the use of paint, which is, I guess, not controversial). But it would be impressive if we are actually looking at a piece of culture that had been retained since the migration out of Africa.