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More distant cognates include Latin flagrare ("to blaze, glow, burn"), and Ancient Greek phlegein ("to burn, scorch").
The Ancient Greeks sometimes used the same word to name different colors, if they had the same intensity. The Ancient Romans had two words for black: ater was a flat, dull black, while niger was a brilliant, saturated black.
For the ancient Greeks, black was also the color of the underworld, separated from the world of the living by the river Acheron, whose water was black.
Those who had committed the worst sins were sent to Tartarus, the deepest and darkest level.
These are parallelled in Middle English by the terms swart for dull black and blaek for luminous black. The Lascaux Cave in France contains drawings of bulls and other animals drawn by paleolithic artists between 18,000 and 17,000 years ago.
Swart still survives as the word swarthy, while blaek became the modern English black. They began by using charcoal, and then made more vivid black pigments by burning bones or grinding a powder of manganese oxide.
For the ancient Egyptians, black had positive associations; being the color of fertility and the rich black soil flooded by the Nile.
It was the color of Anubis, the god of the underworld, who took the form of a black jackal, and offered protection against evil to the dead.
In black-figure pottery, the artist would paint figures with a glossy clay slip on a red clay pot.In the center was the palace of Hades, the king of the underworld, where he was seated upon a black ebony throne.Black was one of the most important colors used by ancient Greek artists.According to surveys in Europe and North America, it is the color most commonly associated with mourning, the end, secrets, magic, force, violence, evil, and elegance.The word black comes from Old English blæc ("black, dark", also, "ink"), from Proto-Germanic *blakkaz ("burned"), from Proto-Indo-European *bhleg- ("to burn, gleam, shine, flash"), from base *bhel- ("to shine"), related to Old Saxon blak ("ink"), Old High German blach ("black"), Old Norse blakkr ("dark"), Dutch blaken ("to burn"), and Swedish bläck ("ink").