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
  • Fig. 1 Mud wasp nest samples and their development sequence.

    (A) A recently constructed Sceliphron laetum mud wasp nest. (B) Underside of the nest after removal from the rock surface with basal nest structure highlighted to show (C) the characteristic oval shape evident in weathered nests, leaving (D) just a remnant of mineralized mud over time. (E) A typical remnant mud wasp nest (DR006_03-1) overlying pigment from a Gwion motif before removal and (F) the remainder with pigment revealed underneath. Photo credit: Damien Finch.

  • Fig. 2 Summary of Gwion-related ages.

    Calibrated dates for the oldest wasp nests and the associated reliability score (10 is the most reliable, and 1 is the least). The bar underneath each probability distribution plot indicates the 95% probability range, with the median marked with a cross. The minimum age constraints provided by overlying nests (indicated with blue bars, starting just beyond the 95% probability range for the nest) and the maximum age constraints from underlying nests (brown bars) together with the age bracket for DR015_07 suggest a narrow age range for production of most of these Gwion motifs around 12,400 years ago (cal B.P.) (red vertical bar), apart from DR013_10-1 and DR006_03-1.

  • Fig. 3 Hypothetical ages of nests overlying (blue triangles) and underlying (brown triangles) motifs.

    Blue (brown) horizontal bars show the possible age range for the associated motif over (under) the nest. Scenario 1 (A): All motifs were painted in a short period permitting no major overlap between the ages of underlying and overlying nests. Scenario 2 (B): Motifs were painted between 2000 and 4000 years ago so the ages of underlying and overlying nests will overlap significantly. The probability functions in (C) and (D) are the sum of the possible age ranges for motifs from overlying (blue curve) and underlying (brown curve) nests.

  • Fig. 4 Motif age ranges.

    Calibrated dates for the oldest wasp nests with a reliability score of at least 5. (A) Nest over motif: Nest sample locations are indicated in blue on the black figures. (B) Nest under motif: Nest sample locations are indicated in brown. (C) Nests under and over the same motif DR015_07 and the calculated age bracket for motif DR015_07 using the OxCal 4.3.2 software (36, 40) and the code listed in text S1. Illustrations: Pauline Heaney.

  • Fig. 5 Probability distributions for the age constraints for Gwion motifs.

    Sum of the cumulative probability density functions for the ages of nests over (blue) and under (brown) pigment and the age bracket for motif DR015_07 (red). The intersection of the blue and brown areas then represents the probability distribution for the age of Gwion motifs. The outliers, DR013_10 and DR006_03, are included.

  • Fig. 6 Hypothesized age range for the Gwion style (top graph), with (dark gray) and without (light gray) a correction for inbuilt charcoal age.

    Excluding the two possible outlier dates for DR013_10 and DR006_03, the Gwion style is defined temporally by combining the age distributions for the oldest over-art nest (DT1207_03), the youngest under-art nest (DR013_06), and the age bracket for DR015_07. The bar under the curve is the 95% probability range, and the cross marks the median of the corrected distribution. Modeled using OxCal v4.3.2 (40); r:5 SHCal13 atmospheric curve (35) and the code listed in text S1.

Supplementary Materials

  • Supplementary material for this article is available at http://advances.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/6/6/eaay3922/DC1

    Fig. S1. Relationship between age of nest and associated motif.

    Fig. S2. Photograph and illustrative interpretation of dated Gwion motifs.

    Text S1. Calibrated age modeling code.

    Table S1. Radiocarbon age determinations on wasp nests associated with Gwion motifs.

    Table S2. Radiocarbon pretreatment methods and age determinations (uncalibrated) on wasp nests associated with Gwion motifs.

  • Supplementary Materials

    This PDF file includes:

    • Fig. S1. Relationship between age of nest and associated motif.
    • Fig. S2. Photograph and illustrative interpretation of dated Gwion motifs.
    • Text S1. Calibrated age modeling code.
    • Table S1. Radiocarbon age determinations on wasp nests associated with Gwion motifs.
    • Table S2. Radiocarbon pretreatment methods and age determinations (uncalibrated) on wasp nests associated with Gwion motifs.

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