Dating prehistoric paintings
In a few cases, the team also dated calcite underneath artworks, thus creating a "sandwich" that generated maximum and minimum dates.
The results, if correct, include the earliest ever reported date for cave art: A red disk from El Castillo Cave, on the Pas River in northern Spain, clocked in at a minimum of 40,800 years.
Lead author, Bonneau, concludes in the paper: "This protocol is a step forward in the field of rock art dating by reducing the sample size to be collected, by optimising the success rate of such dating, and by limiting the impact on such valuable paintings while providing new chronological insights." Explore further: New technology for dating ancient rock paintings More information: Adelphine Bonneau et al.
Other archaeologists have argued that artists could have entered Chauvet much later and picked up charcoal that had been lying around for thousands of years.
Now in a paper published online today in , dating expert Alistair Pike of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and archaeologist Paul Pettitt of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, together with colleagues in Spain, applied a technique called uranium-series (U-series) dating to artworks from 11 Spanish caves.
Now dating experts working in Spain, using a technique relatively new to archaeology, have pushed dates for the earliest cave art back some 4000 years to at least 41,000 years ago, raising the possibility that the artists were Neandertals rather than modern humans.
And a few researchers say that the study argues for the slow development of artistic skill over tens of thousands of years.