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And what are some of the challenges involved in dating them?

Many people will be forgiven for thinking that Australia has some of the oldest rock art in the world, but the truth there is no reliable dating to show this.

Australia is blessed with many beautiful examples of Aboriginal cave paintings and engravings but what does science tell us about how old they are?

"You often hear people talk about the oldest continuous culture in the world being Aboriginal culture," says geologist Professor Brad Pillans of the Australian National University.

"Many archaeologists have thought rock art has been a part of Aboriginal culture since earliest times...

But the first radiocarbon dates showed that Chauvet Cave had been occupied twice starting about 35,000 years ago.

The Aurignacian people, among the first to live in Europe, brought to the cave a fully formed artistic tradition that used a variety of techniques involving charcoal and a type of red pigment.

Here we report on a new technique which allows this separation to be effected by using a low-temperature, low-pressure oxygen plasma to oxidize selectively the organic component; this may then be analysed using standard C methods.

We have applied this technique to a portion of a pictograph from the Lower Pecos region of southwest Texas (Fig. Evidence suggests that they were not merely decorations of living areas since the caves in which they have been found do not have signs of ongoing habitation.They are also often located in areas of caves that are not easily accessible.Cave paintings (also known as "parietal art") are painted drawings on cave walls or ceilings, mainly of prehistoric origin, dated to some 40,000 years ago (around 38,000 BCE) in Eurasia.The exact purpose of the Paleolithic cave paintings is not known.but it's an inference." Pillans and colleague Keith Fifield have argued that rocks bearing Aboriginal engravings on the Burrup Peninsula have the potential to preserve the engravings for 50,000 to 60,000 years, but they have done no direct dating of the engravings themselves.

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