Dating correlated microlayers in oxalate accretions from rock art shelters: New archives of paleoenvironments and human activity
© Nick Rains/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Mineral-rich growths on ancient rock art could provide a reliable way of radiocarbon dating the paintings and engravings upon which they have collected.
Many rock-art panels around the world are marked by a build-up of minerals – in particular the carbon-containing mineral calcium oxalate, which is thought to form as a result of biological processes on the rock surface involving bacteria, algae, fungi or lichens.
Now, a team that included researchers from the University of Cape Town has used radiocarbon dating on samples of these mineral deposits taken from rock art found at 16 sandstone rock shelters in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia.
Even though the rock shelters were more than 90 kilometres apart, the radiocarbon dating gave similar results across them. The results also matched what is known about the humans who lived in the region and are connected to the art.
- Science Advances 7, eabf3632 (2021). doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abf3632