A radiocarbon laboratory in New Zealand recently returned the results from a finding of rock art in an Australian outback cave just a year prior. Tests of the charcoal used to make the drawings in Nawarla Gabarnmang rock shelter in the Northern Territory prove that the art was created some 28,000 years ago.
Further research shows that the cave itself has evidence of inhabitation from over 45,000 years ago.
The discovery of the Aboriginal rock art, done by University of Southern Queensland archaeologist Bryce Barker, happened in 2011. The specific piece that was analyzed had actually fallen from the ceiling and been preserved until the excavation.
Mr. Barker spoke of the luck in finding art made from charcoal instead of mineral paint, as the latter cannot be sufficiently dated. The majority of the rock art findings in Australia, although some dated to the 40,000 year old range, have questions surrounding the precision of those numbers.
The world’s oldest dated cave art is found in El Castillo cave in Spain, coming in at a whopping 40,800 years old. Having only excavated a small section of the Nawarla Gabarnmang rock shelter, however, Barker has hopes of discovering art that is even older than 28,000 years, and perhaps something that competes with Spain’s claim.