Red ochre is widely distributed at Middle Stone Age (MSA – for list of abbreviations see Appendix 1) sites. Ritual and utilitarian interpretations have been proposed for its occurrences, resulting in an ongoing debate regarding the role ochre played during the African MSA. During the last decade, the ochre debate has intensified. This has resulted in two main views on the context within which ochre was used within; a ritual and a utilitarian. There is a substantial body of evidence supporting both views, raising the question as to whether ochre was used within several different contexts. In this thesis, a literature study of ochre material from central sites in this debate has been tested on theoretical grounds to see if it is possible to determine what role ochre played during the MSA and if it was used within several contexts. It is argued on the basis of the characteristics of ritual theory that red ochre was used for both ritual and utilitarian purposes during the MSA, thus implying that ochre had several different roles and was used within different contexts. On the basis of transformation theory, it is argued that ochre connected to utilitarian objects could have been transformed for use in ritual activity, thus implying that ritual and utilitarian functions for ochre were connected, at least in some cases. Based on this, I propose that ritual behaviour was present in Sub-Saharan- and eastern Africa from the early MSA, and that this activity developed and spread to the rest of Africa and the Levantine around 100 ka.