Dating painting events through by-products of ochre processing: Borologa 1 Rockshelter, Kimberley, Australia

Bruno David, Jean-Jacques Delannoy, Fiona Petchey, Jillian Huntley, Robert Gunn, Peter Veth, Kim Genuite, Robert J. Skelly, Jerome Mialanes, Sam Harper, Sven Ouzman, Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation, Pauline Heaney, Vanessa Wong

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The ‘direct’ dating of rock art has proliferated since the development of accelerator mass
spectrometry radiocarbon, uranium-series and optically stimulated luminescence dating, yet
still, most rock art is not directly datable due to the mineral nature of the constituent pigments.
Here we present another method: the recovery and dating by stratigraphic association
of small buried fragments of ochre and dried paint drops deposited onto soft
sediment surfaces as by-products of paint production and use. These finds also give added
contextual occupational information for archaeology of painting events. The case is made
through the example of Borologa 1, a richly decorated Wanjina rockshelter in the Kimberley
region of northwestern Australia that contains buried hearths, grindstones, earth pigments
and small fallen spalls of rock containing traces of pigment and paint drops. Results from
excavation indicate the beginning of Wanjina motifs and associated painting conventions on
Art Panel B1 sometime between 2,080–1,160 cal BP and their proliferation in the
past millennium.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-94
Number of pages38
JournalAustralian Archaeology
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 May 2019


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