Archeology Art Science

Oldest Known Rock Art Dating Back To 5,000 Years Discovered In Southern Africa

Oldest Known Rock Art Dating Back To 5000 Years Discovered In Southern Africa

Archeology has always something surprising to people and to the researchers alike. The southern region of Africa is well known for its rock art that is left by the ancient hunters and gatherers. To date these art forms back, the researchers collected their paint samples, which had carbon pigments and found that they were some 5000 years old, probably the oldest known rock art. The researchers claim that these arts are mostly a material depiction of the powers of ritual specialists. This rock art was found located in the Thune Dam, Botswana, the Phuthiatsana Valley, Lesotho and the Maclear District in South Africa.

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How Were The Samples Collected For Dating And Analysis?

One of the challenges that the researchers faced in dating these rock arts was that it needed a larger piece of rock for the analysis. Taking out larger pieces of rocks, damaged the art. But, in the recent study a more innovative approach of AMS – Accelerator Mass Spectrometry was used that needed smaller fragments of the artefacts for the study. It ultimately allowed the researchers to study more in depth and learn more about the ancient art forms.

Oldest Known Rock Art Dating Back To 5000 Years Discovered In Southern AfricaImage Source (Image Source)

In order to carry out the research in the rock art found in Southern Africa, the researchers took out samples of paint that were about 0.5 mm2 in size. These were apparently analyses unprepared and in cross sections using various techniques.

Oldest Known Rock Art Dating Back To 5000 Years Discovered In Southern AfricaImage Source (Image Source)

With the paint samples, the scientists discovered if they were fit to be analyzed using AMS – Accelerator Mass Spectrometry radiocarbon dating, and if any light could be shed on the composition of these arts.

Technique Used For Dating The Rock Art

Oldest Known Rock Art Dating Back To 5000 Years Discovered In Southern AfricaImage Source (Image Source)

A method called accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), was used for first direct dating of this ancient art in Southern Africa. Small paint samples were gathered by the researchers which were analysed using light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) and Raman and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopies in order to determine the morphology and composition.

Oldest Known Rock Art Dating Back To 5000 Years Discovered In Southern AfricaImage Source (Image Source)

It helped them to understand if the paintings contained carbon, and from a short lived organic material or charcoal, as charcoal can be much older than the painting. To avoid contamination, they used cutting edge technology to clean the samples. Finally a modified acid based acid process was developed to remove any of the remaining radiocarbon contaminations and eventually, the first direct dates noted was 5723–4420 cal BP.

What Did The Team Of Researchers Discover?

Oldest Known Rock Art Dating Back To 5000 Years Discovered In Southern AfricaImage Source (Image Source)

Eventually, using all these techniques and all the research methods, the team of researchers could derive a conclusion that the Bushman people did use charcoal. Charcoal could be older than the paintings itself. But, along with the charcoal, the painting also consisted soot and carbon black in the pigments.

These two items, soot and carbon black, helped the scientists to date the art form. The first direct dates for rock art in South Africa, apparently noted by the researchers is 5723–4420 cal BP.

Oldest Known Rock Art Dating Back To 5,000 Years Discovered In Southern Africa
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