The trouble with dating: Establishing a chronology of southern African rock art
Why is it important that we date rock art, and what makes it difficult to do so? How does radiocarbon dating work? What are rock art paints made of and why does it matter?
Rock art, such as that of the San in Southern Africa, provides a unique and fascinating glimpse into the beliefs and practices of past cultures. But how old is southern African rock art really? Does it all come from the same period or was it created over many millenia?
Directly dating rock art anywhere in the world is difficult. The lack of a chronological framework has become particularly acute in South Africa in recent years because the meaning of the art is so well understood.
In tonight's session of Science & Cocktails, David Pearce, Director of the Rock Art Research Institute at Wits, will explain how new research in South Africa, Lesotho and Botswana has led to techniques to directly radiocarbon date rock paintings and produced the largest set of dates in these countries. He will elaborate on how the detailed characterization of the composition of paints has been key to the success of this work, and discuss some of the fascinating results of these studies, such as the discovery that painted sites were used repeatedly over remarkably long periods.
Afterwards, smoky cocktails to an ancient recipe while BLK Thought Music present "Time Underground", music that interrogates the problem of doubt, sound and the contours of cultural wisdom.
David Pearce is Associate Professor and Director of the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand. His main research interests include cognitive Archaeology, specialising in southern African hunter-gatherers, as well as developing techniques to accurately date rock paintings.
BLK Thought Music
BLK Thought Music is a Jo’burg-based art-outfit. On stage it feels its sounds, and thinks what it feels. It privileges the stage and sound-making as a space for ethical-combat, under the influence of things and beings. Under the influence of every child, of the church bell and the noise, of life through chaos. The influence of voices in the wilderness, of Kiba ko Limpopo Ga-Matlala a thaba and Ukombela kwaseKomani (Queenstown). In the past BLK Thought Music has organised, curated and performed in a series of artistic interventions. It recently organised and performed ‘Kosha ke Nnete’ (historical concerns of South African musical practices) at Emakhaya theatre, University of the Witwatersrand. Tonight's lineup will be: Sive Mqikela (vocals), Gabe Morokoe Letswalo (vocals), Kokotso Poho (flute), Eli Phaz (electric guitar), Josh Mokoena (piano), Nhlanhla Ngqaqu (bass) and Enoch Marutha (drums)