Results from the first intensive dating program for pigment art in the Australian arid zone: Insights into recent social complexity

Jo McDonald, Karen Steelman, Peter Veth, J. Mackey, J. Loewen, C.R. Thurber, T.P. Guilderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Canning Stock Route Project (Rock Art and Jukurrpa) has yielded the first radiocarbon dates for rock paintings in the Western Desert of Australia. We report on the results of a large-scale project to directly-date both charcoal and inorganic-pigmented pictographs using plasma oxidation combined with accelerator mass spectrometry. This project has yielded the largest number of art dates from any region in the world: one site alone has produced 12 art dates (from 30 collected samples). Our work advances the testing of the dating method through the systematic use of replicates and explores the methodological implications of dating very small samples (10-40μg carbon). Thirty-six radiocarbon age determinations range from 3000 years ago to Modern. The results contribute to an understanding of art production in the Australian arid zone during a period of extreme cultural dynamism. We have demonstrated for the first time that significant late Holocene changes in discard rates of artefacts and technological organization of the extractive technologies of implements such seed-grinders is matched by a very high level of stylistic heterogeneity in the art - which has been systematically dated within and between dialect groups. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-204
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume46
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

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