Laura Suffield. Hailed two years ago as one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Europe, the painted caves at Alave in northern Spain are decorated with images of animals, symbols and splashes of colour. The results of further tests released this summer have proved them to be skilful fakes. The Spanish student who discovered them is now thought to have painted the cave with natural pigments but using modern rubber sponges, fragments of which were found on the walls. Presumably more by good luck than judgement, the Spanish student avoided the use of charcoal underdrawing in his scheme at Alave. Such underdrawing has now provided a significantly more accurate way of dating the famous palaeolithic cave paintings at Altamira and El Castillo, Spain, and Niaux in the French Pyrenees has been developed by a team of French and Spanish scientists.
Australia's Oldest Rock Painting of Kangaroo Found To Be 17,000-Year-Old Thru Radiocarbon Dating
From cave art to climate chaos: how a new carbon dating timeline is changing our view of history
Over time, carbon decays in predictable ways. And with the help of radiocarbon dating, researchers can use that decay as a kind of clock that allows them to peer into the past and determine absolute dates for everything from wood to food, pollen, poop, and even dead animals and humans. While plants are alive, they take in carbon through photosynthesis. Humans and other animals ingest the carbon through plant-based foods or by eating other animals that eat plants.
Defining the age of a rock or cave painting
Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50, years. Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts.
Radiocarbon dating: radioactive carbon decays to nitrogen with a half-life of years. In dead material, the decayed 14C is not replaced and its concentration in the object decreases slowly. To obtain a truly absolute chronology, corrections must be made, provided by measurements on samples of know age. The most suitable types of sample for radiocarbon dating are charcoal and well-preserved wood, although leather, cloth, paper, peat, shell and bone can also be used.