Radiocarbon dating rock art

The overflowing lake left telltale crusts of carbonate on these rocks, according to study researcher Larry Benson of the University of Colorado Boulder.Radiocarbon tests revealed that the carbonate film underlying the petroglyphs dated back roughly 14,800 years ago, while a later layer of carbonate coating the rock art dated to about 11,000 years ago.Radiocarbon dating of charcoal excavated from the lowest stratigraphic layer returned a mean age of 35,400 ±410 years BP while the six upper layers had been deposited over the last 20,000 years.However, radiocarbon dating of charcoal excavated from the base of the lowest stratigraphic layer of the floor returned a mean age of 45,189 ±1089 years Cal BP suggesting the oldest date for the earliest human habitation."Whether they turn out to be as old as 14,800 years ago or as recent as 10,500 years ago, they are still the oldest petroglyphs that have been dated in North America." Researchers previously believed the oldest rock art in North America could be found at Long Lake, Ore., in carvings that were created at least 6,700 years ago, before being covered in ash from the Mount Mazama volcanic eruption.The deeply carved lines and grooves in geometric motifs in the petroglyphs at Winnemucca Lake share similarities with their cousins in Oregon.Rock Art can be “interpreted” in many ways, including by modern artists and spiritual practitioners with purposes which may have either a lot or very little to do with the reasons it was produced long ago.These modern interpretations can be useful to those who engage in them, even giving great pleasure and serenity.

We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].Renfrew (1973) called it 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its impact upon the human sciences.Oakley (1979) suggested its development meant an almost complete re-writing of the evolution and cultural emergence of the human species.Though Winnemucca Lake is now barren, at other times in the past it was so full of water the lake would have submerged the rocks where the petroglyphs were found and spilled its excess contents over Emerson Pass to the north.[See Photos of Amazing Cave Art] To determine the age of the rock art, researchers had to figure out when the boulders were above the water line.

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