Australia’s Oldest Known Rock Painting Is Of A Kangaroo

Archaeologists have discovered a 6.6-foot long painting of a kangaroo in Western Australia. It was found on a rock shelter in the Kimberley region of the country. It is believed to be between 17,500-17,100 years.

The dating was done with the help of a few overlying and underlying wasp nests. Rock art has been universally recognized as one of the earliest attempts at communication. In those regions where weather conditions don’t favour the preservation of organic objects, evidence of early human activity is mostly limited to stone tools, rock art, and micromorphological evidence. Without proper preservation of organic material, it is near impossible to date any ancient discoveries, as there are no reliable materials to test on.

Stone tool dating is done using radiometric dating of surrounding material during an archaeological excavation. However, this dating technique is only rarely applicable to rock arts that are ancient, so it is hard to get an exact range of most cave paintings.

There are exceptions — in France, charcoal pigmented art is perfectly preserved in very deep caves. In a new research study, Dr. Damien Finch of University of Melbourne and his colleagues relied on the lucky occurrence of mud wasp nests that were dateable. It allowed them to calculate the minimum and maximum age limits for the rock art found in eight separate rock shelters. They could radiocarbon-date twenty-seven mud wasp nests to be aged between 17,000 and 13,000 years ago.

It was a once in a lifetime discovery because it is very rare to find mud wasp nests both over and under a single rock painting. The kangaroo was painted on the rock shelter’s sloping ceiling. It is currently Australia’s oldest in-situ painting. It gives an insight into the mind of the ancient artist when he or she painted it on the cave ceiling more than 600 generations ago. This painting provides a better understanding of the indigenous cultural history of early men.

The kangaroo painting quite similar to rock paintings from South East Asia islands. They were dated to be more than 40,000 years old, and thus there could be a cultural link. It could also signify a message of some sort, as the repetition of symbols and objects is often considered to be a communication attempt made by the early men.

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