Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 27–47

Dating European Palaeolithic Cave Art: Progress, Prospects, Problems

Original Paper


Over the last decade several dozen direct dates on cave art pigments or associated materials have supplemented more traditional style-based attempts to establish a chronological (and developmental) scheme for cave art. In the “post-stylistic” era an holistic integration of pigment “recipe” analysis, formal stylistic analysis and direct chronometric dating have been applied to a handful of dates. Here, we examine the state-of-the-art of Palaeolithic cave art dating, with particular emphasis on certain radiocarbon and Uranium-series projects. We examine the relative successes and weaknesses of this cutting edge science. We conclude that there are several weaknesses in current applications that are in serious need of addressing. Issues of sample contamination and of the heuristic relationship between materials dated and the production of the art are particularly problematic. It follows that one should at present be very cautious about straightforward interpretations of apparent “dates” of cave art.


Art Paleolithic Radiocarbon Chronometry 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of BristolBristolUK

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