Radiocarbon dating rock art

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but it's an inference." Pillans and colleague Keith Fifield have argued that rocks bearing Aboriginal engravings on the Burrup Peninsula have the potential to preserve the engravings for 50,000 to 60,000 years, but they have done no direct dating of the engravings themselves.

According to archaeologist Dr Bruno David of Monash University the oldest reliably-dated rock engravings in Australia are 13,000 to 15000 years old, and are in Laura, Queensland.

Adelphine Bonneau of Laval University explained that the study tested rock art at 14 sites located in southeastern Botswana, western Lesotho, and South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.

The team members were careful to avoid paintings made with charcoal, which could have been much older than the image itself, and to remove radiocarbon contaminants from the samples.

That's much less than the several grams of carbon needed with radiocarbon dating.

Presented below are some radiocarbon dates obtained at the 'Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement' for charcoal used in the execution of prehistoric paintings decorating two French caves: Cosquer and Chauvet.

, 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.

The presentation of the dates will be preceded by a short discussion of the experimental procedure used in our laboratory (pigment sampling, chemical treatment, etc).

The ages obtained so far have shown that the art of cave painting appeared early in the Upper Palaeolithic period, much earlier than previously believed.

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