Archaeologist finds oldest rock art in Australia

An archaeologist says he found the oldest piece of rock art in Australia and one of the oldest in the world: an Aboriginal work created 28,000 years ago in an Outback cave. 

Aboriginal rock art in a cave in the Australian Outback. University of Southern Queensland archaeologist Bryce Barker said Monday, June 18, 2012 that tests show the Aboriginal rock art in the cave was made 28,000 years ago, making it the oldest in Australia and among the oldest in the world [Credit: AP/Bryce Barker]
The dating of one of the thousands of images in the Northern Territory rock shelter known as Nawarla Gabarnmang will be published in the next edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science. 

University of Southern Queensland archaeologist Bryce Barker said Monday that he found the rock in June last year but only recently had it dated at New Zealand's University of Waikato radiocarbon laboratory. 

He said the rock art was made with charcoal, so radiocarbon dating could be used to determine its age. Most rock art is made with mineral paint, so its age cannot be accurately measured. 

"It's the oldest unequivocally dated rock art in Australia" and among the oldest in the world, Barker said. 

In this May 2012 photo provided by Bryce Barker, a fragment of Aboriginal rock art on granite found in Australian Outback is seen on a plastic bag. University of Southern Queensland archaeologist Bryce Barker said Monday, June 18, 2012 that tests show the Aboriginal rock art in the cave was made 28,000 years ago, making it the oldest in Australia and among the oldest in the world. The rock art was made with charcoal, so radiocarbon dating could be used to determine its age [Credit: AP/Bryce Barker]
The oldest known rock art is in Spain, where hand stencils and red disks made by blowing paint on to the wall in El Castillo cave are at least 40,800 years old, according to scientists using a technique known as uranium-thorium dating. 

Australian National University archaeologist Sally May, who is not involved with Barker's research, described his find as "incredibly significant." 

"I don't think it will surprise anyone that rock art is that old in Australia because we know people have been here a lot longer than that and there's no reason to believe they weren't producing art," she added. 

Barker said he found evidence that the cave where he found the rock art had been occupied for 45,000 years. 

Author: Rod McGuirk | Source: Associated Press [June 18, 2012]

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1 comments for Archaeologist finds oldest rock art in Australia

  1. Look at the structure of the rocks. These are not natural formations, these are artificially constructed. This means that before the rock art was made, all that time ago; the artificial cave was built so that the painters could have shelter and paint in it. This reminds me so much of how humans treat monkeys in nature reserves.

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