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24 June 2012
New test from a Welsh cave confirms Britain's oldest rock-art

Following the discovery of an engraved cervid, probably a reindeer from the rear section of a Welsh cave in September 2010, three samples were taken from flowstone that covered part of the engraving and were sent to the Open University Uranium Series Dating Laboratory in Milton Keynes. The cave, located on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales, had been previously excavated three times, revealing an array of faunal remains and a unique lithic assemblage.
     The first three samples for Uranium Series dating were taken in April 2011. This dating method is based on measurement of the radioactivity of short-lived daughter isotopes of uranium formed in samples that initially contained only the parent uranium. Materials suitable for the U-series dating are found in many prehistoric archaeological sites, and include stalagmitic layers and spring-deposited travertines.
     The results from these three samples revealed a minimum date for the rock art was 12,572 BP + 600 years. At that time the British Isles was gripped by the final ravages of the Devensian ice sheets. In July 2011 a further sample from the same flowstone was taken.  A minimum date for this sample was 14,505 + 560 BP when average summer temperatures in southern Britain were around -10 degrees centigrade. This date confirms the engraved cervid to be the oldest rock art to be discovered in Britain.
     
Edited from George Nash PR (20 June 2012)

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