At many sites throughout the world rock art paintings have been covered by naturally deposited calcite laminations, which we demonstrate can be individually dated by recently improved uranium-series methods. Here we report the application of multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry to measure the ages for carbonate coatings that bracket red pigment at Lene Hara cave, East Timor, which could be evidence of human painting. These analyses establish the feasibility of dating milligram samples of finely layered calcite deposits associated with archaeological evidence of human occupation. In addition to confirming an age of less then 6300 years for the visible red paintings on the carbonate surface we also report a substantially older age of 24,000 to 29,300 years for a similar, older red pigment lamination providing possible evidence for an earlier painting episode.
- East Timor
- Human evolution
- Multi-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry
- Rock art
- Uranium-series dating