Chemical characterization and AMS radiocarbon dating of the binder of a prehistoric rock pictograph at Tadrart Acacus, southern west Libya

F. Mori, R. Ponti, A. Messina, M. Flieger, V. Havlicek, M. Sinibaldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The analysis of the amino acid (AA) content in fragments derived from a prehistoric rock pictograph (Lancusi rock shelter) at Tadrart Acacus, southern west Libya, revealed the presence of material containing peptides differing in solubility in hot acidic or alkaline solutions, as well as in AA composition and racemization. Water-soluble components were constituted of low molecular weight peptides with high racemization of aspartic acid and alanine, whereas the water insoluble material consisted of species of a more complex AA composition and a different degree of racemization. The proteinaceous materials were assumed to originate from matter that had undergone over time different diagenetic processes. The water insoluble peptide-containing material was separated from the rock substrate by acid hydrolysis, dried and the resulting residue submitted to radiocarbon analysis. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) yielded an approximate age of 6145 ± 70 years B.P. (before present), which is consistent with archaeological inference and the climatic reconstruction of central Sahara. To our knowledge the present work represents the first attempt of direct radiocarbon dating of rock art in the Sahara desert.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-349
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Keywords

  • Accelerator mass spectrometry
  • Libyan Sahara
  • Painting binder
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Rock pictograph

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Conservation
  • Sociology and Political Science

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