Radiocarbon dating of ancient rock paintings

There have been surprises, though - in several caves whose art had previously been assumed to date from the same period, the new dating technique has revealed that the paintings were done in several phases, possibly over 15,000 years (25,000 years ago to just 10,000.) The dating method involves a technique called uranium series dating.

And there's a serious risk of contaminating the samples being analysed with more modern or older carbon.

Better-known techniques like radiocarbon dating are of limited use in dating cave art.

Much of it isn't made with organic materials, but is simply carved into the rock, or painted with non-organic pigments like ochre.

Instead of trying to date the paintings and engravings themselves, they are analysing carbonate deposits like stalactites and stalagmites that have formed over them.

This means they don't risk harming irreplaceable art, and provides a more detailed view of prehistoric cultures.

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