Radiocarbon dating rock art

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"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...

Advances in radiocarbon dating by accelerator mass spectrometry now make it possible to date prehistoric cave paintings by sampling the pigment itself instead of relying on dates derived from miscellaneous prehistoric remains recovered in the vicinity of the paintings.

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.

, San rock art in southern Africa has been directly dated with a technique known as accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating.

This method uses a much smaller sample than traditional radiocarbon dating, and thus causes less damage to the artwork.

The new dates were obtained using radiocarbon dating.

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

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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).

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

The research included analyzing pictographs from numerous countries over a span of 15 years.

And what are some of the challenges involved in dating them?

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.

"These were dated using radiocarbon dating of charcoal buried at the same depth of engravings," he says.

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