The oldest rock art work in Australia is a kangaroo, painted more than 17,000 years ago by Aborigines and dated by analyzing old wasp nests, according to a study, reports AFP.
The artwork, painted in a realistic style that reproduces the animal in its true dimensions, was found along with representations of other animals on the ceiling of a rock shelter in the Kimberley region (northwestern Australia).
“The main obstacle (…) is that they rarely used a pigment that allows dating with current techniques,” Damien Finch, a geochronologist at the University of Melbourne and author of the study published in Nature Human Behavior, told AFP.
Together with his colleagues, he managed to solve the mystery with the help of the remains of wasp nests, made of dated mud, which were found below and above the paintings.
Thus, they established that the painting representing the kangaroo is 17,100 to 17,500 years old.
The dating of these intact cave paintings “is of great importance to Aboriginal and Australians,” Cissy Gore-Birch, head of the Balanggarra Aboriginal Association, said in a statement from the University of Western Australia.
In total, Damien Finch’s team dated 27 old wasp nests distributed on 16 paintings in eight shelters, with naturalistic-style works of art (faithful representations of fauna and flora) 13,000 to 17,000 years old.
They are mainly animals, including a snake, lizards and marsupials, including kangaroos and koala bears.
Animal representations dominate rock art, whether in France, Spain or Indonesia.
“It is a significant discovery, because through these estimates we can understand little of the world in which these ancient artists lived,” Damien Finch added in the statement.
“We will never know what the artists who painted these works 600 generations ago thought, but we know that the Naturalist period stretched to the end of the ice age,” he concluded 10,000 years ago, he said.
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