Scientists have discovered a painting of South African ancestors, which was applied to the rocks for almost five thousand years. Today it is the oldest drawing on the continent.
Archaeologists managed to get at the disposal of 13 fragments of rock art from several regions of South Africa. On the most ancient of them, discovered in the Republic of Botswana, you can see the outlines of people and the image of fish. The drawings were partially washed away with water, and the rock itself was very fragile, so the researchers applied a new technology – radiocarbon dating, coupled with accelerating mass spectrometry – to gently chip off a piece of rock with the surviving pattern.
The search and dating of rock art in South Africa from the leading archaeologist Adelphin Bonno from the University of Quebec in Montreal and her colleagues took more than 7 years. They managed to collect dozens of fragments of rocks covered with drawings. But the main problem was the extraction of fragments – they are necessary to more accurately date the find. Over time, many rocks became very fragile and the slightest interference of researchers could destroy them.
First, scientists collected tiny samples measuring 0.5 mm2 and analyzed them for the presence of carbons, which are not relevant to the figure. Then they selected the fragments, which, in their opinion, were of the greatest value, and applied a hypersensitive method of isotopic analysis. For him, only 0.001 g of substance is enough. This method allowed to more accurately date the images and, as a result, to obtain significant figures, Bonno believes.
Scientists also managed to find out that the ancestors of the indigenous peoples of South Africa – Bushmen or, as they call themselves, sleds, – painted with charcoal, soot and a mixture of carbon black. As Adelphin Bonno noted, the sleds are known for their artful rock paintings, but until recently archaeologists have found it difficult to judge their age. A new technique for obtaining samples is a big step forward, consider her British colleagues.
By the way, the oldest rock carvings, known to date, is in Indonesia. His age is almost 40 thousand years.