June 18, 2012

Australian rock art gets oldest radiocarbon dating: 28,000 years

In relation with the previous entry, where I mentioned again, among many other things, that Australia probably hosts the oldest rock art of all Earth because of the depiction of the giant duck Genyornis, which went extinct c. 40,000 years ago, now it has been known that an Australian rock art site has produced the oldest radiocarbon date on Earth for such kind of material. 

The site, in Arnhem Land (Northern Territory), is known as Nawarla Gabarnmang.

The 28,000 years old site of Nawarla Gabarnmang

Notice that radiocarbon can only be measured on charcoal or other organic materials, and therefore it has some practical limitations: only drawings in black (usually made with charcoal dust) can be measured and there are limitations of persistence of the materials, which tend to degrade because of their very organic nature. 

That's why radiocarbon dating of rock art can't give many answers. Still worth mentioning in the context of the heating debate about the earliest rock art (Iberia, Australia? Neanderthal, Sapiens?) and dating methods. 

Source and some more details (in English): Pileta (originally from an Australian PPV newspaper).

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