A rock painting is the evidence of early humans' form of expression depicting their daily lives and their surroundings. In Australia, it is known as Aboriginal rock art, the oldest form of indigenous Australian art. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 rock art sites in Australia that provide a unique and rich archive of indigenous art, according to Artyfactory.
Recently, scientists in Australia announced that the oldest rock painting in the continent is of its most iconic animal, the kangaroo. USA Today reports that the painting is believed to be dated 17,000 years ago, the oldest painting discovered in Australia.
"This is a significant find, as, through these initial estimates, we can understand something of the world these ancient artists lived in," said Damien Finch of the University of Melbourne, the lead author of the study.
The life-size painting of a kangaroo indicates that the earliest style of rock painting focused on animals like the cave art found in Indonesia and Europe. The full findings of the study were published in Nature Human Behaviour on February 22, 2021.
The 17,000-Year-Old Kangaroo Rock Painting In Australia
The kangaroo rock painting was painted using dark mulberry paint on a rock shelter's sloping ceiling in the northeastern Kimberley region west of Australia. Other rock paintings were also found in the same region.
The Kimberley region is known for its rich rock paintings, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Australian rock art is categorized into five different phases, with the oldest phase is known as the naturalistic phase. This mainly depicts animals and plants, New Scientist reported.
The researchers used radiocarbon dating to analyzed the naturalistic style of rock painting they found in the region. They were able to determine the age f the paintings because of the ancient wasp nests above the said images.
"We radiocarbon-dated three wasp nests underlying the painting and three nests built over it to determine, confidently, that the painting is between 17,500 and 17,100 years old, most likely 17,300 years old," he said.
"We can never know what was in the mind of the artist when he or she painted this piece of work more than 600 generations ago, but we do know that the Naturalistic period extended back into the last ice age, so the environment was cooler and drier than today," Finch said.
The method that the scientists used to determine the age of the oldest rock painting in Australia is known as radiocarbon dating. According to Beta Analytic Testing Laboratory, it is a method that provides objective age estimates for carbon-based materials that came from living organisms.
This technology measures the amount of carbon-14 or radiocarbon present in the sample and compares it against an international reference standard. It has become one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century as no other scientific method has managed to revolutionize the understanding of events that happened thousands of years ago and its role in the present day.
Archaeology and other sciences have been using radiocarbon dating to prove or disprove theories. Today, it is also now being used in atmospheric science, biomedicine, geology, hydrology, geophysics, oceanography, and paleoclimatology.
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