Uranium-series age estimates for rock art in southwest China



Publication Details

Tacon, P. S.C., Aubert, M., Gang, L., Decong, Y., Hong, L., May, S. K., Fallon, S., Xueping, J., Curnoe, D. & Herries, A. I.R. (2012). Uranium-series age estimates for rock art in southwest China. Journal of Archaeological Science, 39 (2), 492-499.


We report the first uranium-series age estimates for rock art in China. Calcite bracketing a paint layer was used to constrain the age of a naturalistic outline hunter-gatherer painting in the Jinsha River area of northwest Yunnan Province (southwest China). The rock paintings in this region are unique in style and content compared with other bodies of rock art in China, which are dominated by Neolithic subject matter. The minimum and maximum ages were determined using isochron techniques on multiple samples of calcite from above and beneath the paint layer. A large painted deer head was dated to between 5738 and 2050 years. This painting and underlying flowstone are superimposed on older paintings that suggest the older paintings are at least 3400 years old, if not older than 5738 years. The results indicate for the first time that Jinsha River rock art is older than other forms of rock art in the region and show that rock art likely extends back to at least the transition from the Palaeolithic to Neolithic in this part of China.

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