In clay form (mixed with water) this is called red ochre and has been used as a pigment around the world since prehistorical times - in fact, it is still used as a pigment for painting in some places (such as houses in Newfoundland and Aboriginal paintings in Australia).
Hematite/red ochre may have been one of the first materials used by pre-humans, based on controversial findings of Homo Heidelbergensis (Heidelberg Man - ancestor of Cro Magnon and Neandertals). These may have been the first to care for their dead as bodies have been found buried in the fetal positions, often with their bones stained with hematite - indicating that their bodies were sprinkled with hematite powder or hematite-based paint (such as red ochre or the powder mixed with oil as is still done in Newfoundland and Scandinaviatoday).
Of course, some archaeologists and other scientists think this is coincidence…
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