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Rock art dating in the Kimberley
2012 Feb 17

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'A review of rock art dating in the Kimberley, Western Australia'
Dr Maxime Aubert


Photo: Hugh Brown

Australian Research Council APD Fellow
University of Wollongong, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Extract: Journal of Archaeological Science 39 [2012] 573-577

As Dr Maxime Aubert states, 'The major problem with use of the Kimberley rock art as a source of scientific information about the past is the lack of a robust chronology. At present, there are very few numerical dates available to anchor the rock art sequence'.

This paper critically reviews the various approaches used to estimate the age of the rock art in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. They include: (i) the relative superimposition of styles; (ii) the use of diagnostic subject matter (depictions of extinct animals, stone tool technology, introduced European and Asian objects and animals); (iii) the recovery of a 'painted' slab from a dated archaeological unit; (iv) radiocarbon dating of beeswax figures, charcoal pigments, organic matter in overlying mineral deposits and 'accreted paint layers' (oxalate rich crusts and amorphous silica skin), pollen grains from an overlaying mud-wasp nest; and (v) optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of quartz grains from overlying mud-wasp nests. Future directions for rock art dating in the Kimberley include uranium-series dating of overlying and underlying mineral deposits.

This paper is important for many reasons; Dr Maxime Aubert confirms that the 'Kimberley rock art is part of an important cultural, natural and economic landscape and its accurate dating would have significant implications for the region', and that the 'problem of rock art dating is one experienced by researchers around the world and the particular problems identified with the techniques discussed here are universal and have implications for rock art dating worldwide'.

To read the paper click here



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