Radiocarbon dating rock art

It validates the method and allows rock painting to join bones, pottery and other artifacts that tell secrets of ancient societies, Rowe said.

"Because of the prior lack of methods for dating rock art, archaeologists had almost completely ignored it before the 1990s," he explained.

, 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.

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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.They lack the high levels of organic material needed to assess a pictograph's age using radiocarbon dating, the standard archaeological technique for more than a half-century.Rowe describes a new, highly sensitive dating method, called accelerator mass spectrometry, that requires only 0.05 milligrams of carbon (the weight of 50 specks of dust).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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