Bradshaw Foundation - Latest News

BRADSHAW FOUNDATION - LATEST NEWS

 

Benchmark for dating rock art in Australia

15 Dec 2016
Share on Facebook

An article posted by the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO) - Development of new techniques makes it possible to date Australian Aboriginal rock art - reports on a new technique developed at ANSTO's Centre for Accelerator Science which has made it possible to produce some of the first reliable radiocarbon dates for Australian rock art.

Dating Australian rock art

Aboriginal rock art (left) from western Arnhem Land depicts style known as Northern Running Figures. Image: Tristen Jones. White mineral coating (right) descending down the rock face. Samples for radiocarbon highlighted. Image: Tristen Jones. Image enhancement: Daryl Wesley. 

In a study just published online in The Journal of Archaeological Science Reports, 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.

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

Lead author Tristen Jones and Njanjma Ranger Hilton Garnarrdj undertaking portable Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy on rock art.

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. However, the paper authors explain that carbon found in the mineral crusts on the rock surface was most probably was formed by microorganisms. 

Levchenko states that these microorganisms are photosynthetic bacteria, like cyanobacteria or algae, which can utilise carbon from the air normally, and are active through wet periods.

A benchmark  for chromometric data for rock art in Australia and elsewhere? The approach has produced an upper and lower limit of dates for a regional art style known as Northern Running Figures (NRF) or Mountford figures, believed to have been produced in Australia during the early to mid-Holocene (10,000 - 6,000 years ago). The archaeologists suggested the maximum age is likely to be far older.

 
Article continues below
 

The limited distribution of the NRF style and it's unclear relationship to earlier and later art styles has posed challenges for rock art researchers. Jones et al report that the minimum age of the NRF rock art style (based on the oldest sample) is reported to be 9034 - 9402 BP (before present), which also produces a minimum age for other art styles that occur in the 'Middle Period' sequence.

Dating Australian rock art

Dr Vladimir Levchenko (left) taking micro photographs of the oxalate crust at one of the the sites. Microphoto captures crystal growth (right) over the ochre pigment (sample RLL3-1-2).

Jones states that the results are exciting as although they generally support the chronology and assumed antiquity for the NRF art style, they provide minimum ages which suggest that the art style is actually a few thousand years older than what was anticipated. They also demonstrate that the art style was painted over a considerably long period. Most excitingly the results also provide the chronometric data to support a Pleistocene antiquity for the earliest known figurative art styles, such as Dynamic Figures, in Arnhem Land.

Levchenko explains that the figure depicted in the painting cannot be younger than the growth upon it; determining the radiocarbon ages using only the calcium oxalate minerals greatly improves the accuracy.

The research had the full support of the local Manilakarr Clan estate in western Arnhem Land and is the result of a long term collaboration with Ms Jones and other ANU collaborators with the Njanjma Rangers and the Djabulukgu Association. Senior Traditional Owner for the Manilakarr Clan estate Mr. Alfred Nayingull was a co-author on the paper.

The Journal of Archaeological Science Reports:
Radiocarbon age constraints for a Pleistocene Holocene transition rock art style: The Northern Running Figures of the East Alligator River region, western Arnhem Land, Australia
Tristen Jones et al
Abstract
In this article we present nine radiocarbon age determinations producing a minimum age and a minimum age range for a regionally distinct rock art style known as the Northern Running Figures from Red Lily Lagoon, western Arnhem Land Australia. These radiocarbon determinations provide age constraints for both Pleistocene and early Holocene rock art in western Arnhem Land. The radiocarbon age determinations are produced from extracting calcium oxalate contained within mineral crusts associated with the rock art. Significantly this study employs a novel separation technique, designed to effectively isolate the oxalate compounds from the mineral crust sample using chemical pre-treatment, and demonstrates significant time offsets between radiocarbon age determinations for the calcium oxalates and other carbon inclusions contained within mineral crusts.


Visit the Australian Rock Art Archive:
http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/bradshaws/index.php

COMMENTS

 
Bradshaw FoundationAboutiShopBook ReviewSite MapMailing ListDonateFacebookTwitterContact
If you have enjoyed visiting this section of the website please consider adding a link
Bradshaw Foundation © MMXI
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter List of Research Papers Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Join the free Mailing List Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Birnin Kudu Rock Art Center Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Baja California Film Coso Range Talking Stone Film Nevada Oregon Territory Moab, Utah Clovis First Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Ian Wilson Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Avebury Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Introduction Peterborough Petroglyphs Western Canadian Rock Art Writing-On-Stone Wuikinuxv Territory Dinosaur Provincial Park Archive Index Huashan Rock Art Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Rouffignac Cave Portable Art Defining Rock Art Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Preservation & Education Dr. V. S. Wakankar Articles on India Rock Art Contemporary Art Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Scandinavian Rock Art Archive Scandinavian Introduction Alta Rock Art Norway Rock Art in Finland Tanum Rock Art Sweden Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Banksy Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes Other Websites Contact the Foundation