Dating prehistoric paintings issues with radiocarbon dating
Other archaeologists have argued that artists could have entered Chauvet much later and picked up charcoal that had been lying around for thousands of years.Now in a paper published online today in , dating expert Alistair Pike of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and archaeologist Paul Pettitt of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, together with colleagues in Spain, applied a technique called uranium-series (U-series) dating to artworks from 11 Spanish caves.
The samples that contained the most carbon-black (and thus most likely to reveal dates) were then radiocarbon dated.
Figuring out the age of cave art is fraught with difficulties.
Radiocarbon dating has long been the method of choice, but it is restricted to organic materials such as bone and charcoal.
The dates reported in this study form the biggest set of direct dates on rock art in South Africa and the only direct dates ever obtained in Botswana and Lesotho.
Lead author, Bonneau, concludes in the paper: "This protocol is a step forward in the field of rock art dating by reducing the sample size to be collected, by optimising the success rate of such dating, and by limiting the impact on such valuable paintings while providing new chronological insights." Explore further: New technology for dating ancient rock paintings More information: Adelphine Bonneau et al.
In a few cases, the team also dated calcite underneath artworks, thus creating a "sandwich" that generated maximum and minimum dates.