Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

12,000-Year-old Aboriginal rock art from the Kimberley region, Western Australia

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Science Advances  05 Feb 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 6, eaay3922
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay3922


The Kimberley region in Western Australia hosts one of the world’s most substantial bodies of indigenous rock art thought to extend in a series of stylistic or iconographic phases from the present day back into the Pleistocene. As with other rock art worldwide, the older styles have proven notoriously difficult to date quantitatively, requiring new scientific approaches. Here, we present the radiocarbon ages of 24 mud wasp nests that were either over or under pigment from 21 anthropomorphic motifs of the Gwion style (previously referred to as “Bradshaws”) from the middle of the relative stylistic sequence. We demonstrate that while one date suggests a minimum age of c. 17 ka for one motif, most of the dates support a hypothesis that these Gwion paintings were produced in a relatively narrow period around 12,000 years ago.

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