Unfortunately there are no affordable direct methods for dating pigments, except in some cases as we will see later.
Generally, for example, we can’t establish when a vermilion stroke was brushed onto a painting, but we can date most of the materials that the pigments are painted on.
Although the southern cave art—drawings of seals—awaits more definitive dating, radiocarbon analyses of charcoal found alongside it yielded dates of 43,500 to 42,300 years.1 Carbon-14 dating of the red handprints and red dots from northern Spain has produced dates clustering around 35,000 years in some of the caves.2 Carbon-14 dating of cave art is problematic, however. Only small samples can be taken without damaging the artwork.
And small sample size often results in inconsistent and possibly contaminated results.3 The previous record-holder for European cave art was found by Jean-Marie Chauvet in 1994 in France.
Ngalue is one of the few directly-dated Pleistocene sites located along the biogeographical corridor for modern human dispersals that links east, central, and southern Africa, and, with further study, may shed new light on hominin cave habitats during the late Pleistocene.