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Dating Rock Art

21 August 2011

At http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/epistem/web/crisis.html there is a revealing article on dating rock art. In Europe it is the Late Pleistocene cave art of Iberia and southern France that dominates university course and it has created a euro-centric view that is causing some chagrin in other parts of the world – such as Australia, India and South Africa. This is no trifling matter as from a euro-centric view rock art is securely within the Upper Palaeolithic – post 40,000BC. This led to the idea, looking solely at the European evidence, art was a defining characteristic of the later Stone Age – implying earlier Stone Age peoples were incapable of producing art, symbols, or abstract motifs – even body tattoos. In India rock art is being dated to 100s of 1000s of years ago – to the world of Homo erectus. In the section sub-titled 'Problems with Archaeology' the author says archaeology is not a science as its results are not falsifiable but are propositions of interpretation. Archaeology is essentially based on an inductive form of uniformitarianism, tempered by literal or implicit ethnographic analogy. In addition, there is an interesting sub section on archaeological and rock art fakes, misidentification, hypothesis of interpretation and bias etc. As far as rock art and cave art is concerned this is revealing, especially as a lot of it has been down-dated in recent years. It is also endemic in other areas of archaeology we might imagine, predetermined theory taking precedence over field observations as ably demonstrated by the likes of Peter James and others, especially when it comes to reconciling the Greek and Anatolian Dark Age with what has been found in the ground. 

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