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date: 23 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The uranium-thorium (U-Th) method can constrain the age of cave art by providing dates of formation of calcite deposits from on top of paintings or calcite layers on which paintings were done. It is particularly useful for art made without radiocarbon datable organic pigments or binders, or where contamination of radiocarbon samples is an issue. The U-Th method is outlined, including various sampling methods, checks for quality control, and a discussion of methods of correction for contaminating detritus. Recent applications of the method to the chronology of cave art are given, including a brief discussion of results that show cave paintings older than c. 40,000 years in both Spain and Sulawesi and their implication for the origins of cave painting.

Keywords: U-Th, U-series, calcite, cave painting, rock art, chronology

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