Age cave dating
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Thermoluminescence dating is generally not very accurate.The accuracy of thermoluminescence dating is only about 15% for a single sample and 7 to 10% for a suite of samples in a single context.
But dating the beautiful images – which featured in Werner Herzog’s recent documentary film Cave of Forgotten Dreams – has led to an ugly spat between archaeologists. Within a year of Chauvet’s discovery, radiocarbon dating suggested the images were between 30,000 and 32,000 years old, making them almost twice the age of the famous Lascaux cave art in south-west France (see map).Australia is blessed with many beautiful examples of Aboriginal cave paintings and engravings but what does science tell us about how old they are?What are the different methods used to date such artworks?A significant typological feature is the presence of formal types such as points, scrapers, awls, and microliths.Special objects consist of grinders/core-axes covered by ochre.The answer, in the minds of evolutionary anthropologists, depends on the dates for when Neanderthals and early modern humans lived, and dates newly assigned to the paintings. Alistair Pike and colleagues report they have uranium-series-dated cave paintings in 11 caves in northern Spain and discovered the oldest known cave art in Europe.
Their report follows close on the heels of an announcement that artwork in southern Spain is suspected of being equally ancient.
Direct evidence for a systematic occupation of the African tropics during the early late Pleistocene is lacking.
Here, we report a record of human occupation between 105–42 ka, based on results from a radiometrically-dated cave section from the Mozambican segment of the Niassa (Malawi/Nyasa) Rift called Ngalue.
Alistair Pike’s team reports that some artwork is at least 40,800 years old.
Investigators found a range of dates spanning about 20,000 years, but those ages represent only the “minimum ages” for the paintings as the flowstone deposits could have formed anytime after the paintings were made.
Unfortunately there are no affordable direct methods for dating pigments, except in some cases as we will see later.