Monday, May 09, 2005

Creswell rock art, oldest in the UK

It's notoriously difficult to date prehistoric rock remains, because rock itself lacks organic material, required for radiocarbon dating methods. Stone megaliths and tombs often have organic remains in or near them, but there's no way of knowing when they were left, relative to the site's creation. It's not uncommon to find layered remains suggesting eras of use and re-use at such sites. Hence the frustrating, unresolved speculation about why all the standing stones were erected. Some very clever work with fortuitous mineral deposits recently allowed dating of some rock art in Britain. Being able to date it accurately has furthered understanding about Ice Age populations in Europe.

Creswell rock art dated: "The dates indicate the stalagmite in Church Hole -- which contains most of the engravings -- formed 12,800 years ago. The results establish once and for all the authenticity and Ice-Age antiquity of the rock art, and make it the oldest known in Britain. Artefacts left by Ice-Age hunter-gathers excavated from Creswell's caves have been dated to 13,000-15,000 years old. The new results indicate the art was probably left by the groups of people who made these artefacts. During this cold period the polar ice caps were much larger than today, resulting in considerably lower sea levels. Due to this, much of the North Sea was dry land -- a vast plain with hills and lakes -- on which it seems small groups of highly mobile hunter-gatherers were living. Archaeologists think that these groups would visit Creswell and other sites in Britain in the Spring to exploit horses, reindeer and arctic hare for their meat, hides and fur. Similar rock art left by these groups had been discovered in France and Germany, but none had been found in Britain until recently. The new dates demonstrate that the groups reaching Britain had the same artistic traditions as their European counterparts. "

cresswell rock art thumbnail

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