Carbon dating cave paintings

Not only is the Ice Age art of the Chauvet Cave extremely old, it is also very extensive and highly varied.

And one other factor intrigued prehistorians around the world eagerly awaiting news from the research team; the Chauvet Cave and its Paleolithic paintings were more or less perfectly preserved.

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Until its discovery in 1994, the cave had remained sealed off by a rock fall that occurred approximately 20,000 years ago.

This evidence suggests that somewhere around that time the Ahmarians entered Europe and gave rise to the entire Aurignacian culture—evolving along the way—and it weakens the opposing theory that the two cultures evolved at the same time and independently of each other.“Once we see a sequence from the Levant to Europe, from the older to the younger, we can confirm that the dispersal model of the Ahmarian-Aurignacian is right,” co-lead excavator Omry Barzilai, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, told .

“If in the Levant this culture is 46,000 years old and in Europe it’s 40,000 then it makes sense to say that the direction is from the Levant to Europe.”Scientists from the Dangoor Research Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, were able to radiocarbon date the charcoal remains from Manot Cave’s hearths.

For the former director of prehistoric antiquities for the Midi-Pyrènèes region of France and scientific advisor on prehistoric art to the French Ministry of Culture, this security proved to be of vital importance - as the results of the Carbon 14 dating of the cave paintings started to emerge from the laboratories (Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de Environnement, Gif-sur-Yvette, France, Centre de Datation par le radiocarbon de Lyon, France, and the Research Laboratory for Archaeology, Oxford, UK), controversy and heated debates flared up as many entrenched and pre-existing conceptions were turned upside down.

The fact that these cave paintings were executed so skilfully yet so deep within prehistory has forced us to abandon the prevailing view that 'early art was naive art'.

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