Radiocarbon dating rock art

The new dates were obtained using radiocarbon dating.

Over the decades rock art has proved extremely difficult to directly date.

Levchenko, who supervised the radiocarbon dating, collaborated with lead author of the paper, Ms Tristen Jones, a Ph D candidate at the Australian National University (ANU) and co-authors from ANU.

Generally speaking, radiocarbon dating cannot readily be used to date Australian indigenous rock art directly, because it is characterised by the use of ochre, an inorganic mineral pigment that contains no carbon.

We have applied this technique to a portion of a pictograph from the Lower Pecos region of southwest Texas (Fig.

A new technique, developed at ANSTO’s Centre for Accelerator Science, has made it possible to produce some of the first reliable radiocarbon dates for Australian rock art in a study just published online in The approach involved extracting calcium oxalate from a mineral crust growing on the surface of rock art from sites in western Arnhem Land, according to paper co-author research scientist Dr Vladimir Levchenko, an authority on radiocarbon dating using accelerator mass spectrometry.

"You often hear people talk about the oldest continuous culture in the world being Aboriginal culture," says geologist Professor Brad Pillans of the Australian National University.

"Many archaeologists have thought rock art has been a part of Aboriginal culture since earliest times...

Many people will be forgiven for thinking that Australia has some of the oldest rock art in the world, but the truth there is no reliable dating to show this.The high artistic quality of the earliest paintings underlines the importance of absolute chronology in any attempt to study the evolution of prehistoric art.DATING of prehistoric rock paintings (pictographs) has traditionally relied on indirect evidence., Professor David Pearce, Director of the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Adelphine Bonneau of Laval University, and colleagues at the University of Oxford showed that paintings in south-eastern Botswana are at least 5500 years old, whilst paintings in Lesotho and the Eastern Cape Drakensberg, South Africa, date as far back as 3000 years.These dates open the floodgates for researchers to ask and answer questions about the rock art that have baffled them for decades. In some sites, paintings continued to be made for more than a thousand years.

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