Dating the Spirit Men: Radiocarbon Dating Saltwater Rock Art of the Yanyuwa People in Northern Australia
Working with Yanyuwa elders, we collected seven rock painting samples for radiocarbon dating from Kamadarringabaya rock shelter on Vanderlin Island in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria (Northern Territory). Hand motifs – prints and stencils – dominate the site, covering the shelter walls and roof, and are said by Yanyuwa to be the hands of the Namurlajanyugku spirit beings. In control experiments, negligible levels of humic acid contamination were shown to be present in the unpainted rock; therefore, no chemical pretreatment was conducted on paint or background samples. To obtain direct dates on the paintings, we oxidized organic material in paint samples using plasma oxidation followed by accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon results were averaged using the R_Combine function of the OxCal computer program with ShCal13 curve data to produce calibrated age ranges. We also conducted a mineral analysis on samples using X-ray diffraction to identify mineral pigments used in the production of motifs. This project blends scientific dating of pigment-based rock art, archaeological analysis of spatial distribution patterns of rock art styles across the landscape, and ethnography through interviews to explore how people negotiate their contemporary relationships to rock art.
Cite this Record
Dating the Spirit Men: Radiocarbon Dating Saltwater Rock Art of the Yanyuwa People in Northern Australia. Karen Steelman, Liam Brady, John Bradley, Amanda Kearney. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444366)
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min long: 111.797; min lat: -44.465 ; max long: 154.951; max lat: -9.796 ;
Abstract Id(s): 20291