Scientific dating of paintings

15 May

The invention of computer-aided spectroscopy, around 1950, simplified and enhanced the analysis of materials.The composition of the same, particularly in the case of organic materials, is represented by the peaks and valleys of a curve (absorption spectrum) eliminating the need for costly and complicated chemical analyses.

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The term ‘to date’, for instance, has a variety of meanings, and confusion about the dating of rock art (or the dating of archaeological remains, for that matter) initially stems from this ambiguity.

A new dating method finally is allowing archaeologists to incorporate rock paintings -- some of the most mysterious and personalized remnants of ancient cultures -- into the tapestry of evidence used to study life in prehistoric times.

A new dating method finally is allowing archaeologists to incorporate rock paintings — some of the most mysterious and personalized remnants of ancient cultures — into the tapestry of evidence used to study life in prehistoric times. Rowe points out that rock paintings, or pictographs, are among the most difficult archaeological artifacts to date.

They lack the high levels of organic material needed to assess a pictograph's age using radiocarbon dating, the standard archaeological technique for more than a half-century.

Rowe describes a new, highly sensitive dating method, called accelerator mass spectrometry, that requires only 0.05 milligrams of carbon (the weight of 50 specks of dust).