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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 February, 2004, 09:37 GMT
New light shed on SA cave art
Dr Alan Watchman
Researchers hope to learn more about San hunter-gatherers
A huge collection of rock paintings in South Africa is far older than previously thought, research has found.

Archaeologists using the latest radio-carbon dating technology found that the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg paintings are 3,000 years old.

Earlier findings by researchers had indicated that the paintings by San hunters-gatherers were 1,000 years old.

The latest research was carried out by the Britain's Newcastle University and Australian National University.

There are more than 40,000 rock paintings at the site in South Africa.

"This is a small but important step forward in the interpretation of the some of the world's finest collection of rock art," said Dr Aron Mazel, a South African researcher

Primitive and crude

The findings by Dr Mazel and Dr Alan Watchman are published in the current edition of the academic journal, South African Humanities.

rock painting
The paintings are made mainly of black, white, red and orange pigments
When Europeans first encountered the rock paintings 150 years ago they considered them as primitive and crude.

But experts now consider the area to be the largest grouping of paintings in Africa, south of the Sahara.

The paintings by the San hunter-gatherers who settled in the area about 8,000 years ago were made using mainly black, white and orange pigments.

They depict animals and human scenes and are said to represent religious beliefs of the San.

"We hope to use this technique to date more of the paintings and organise them in chronological order in the hope that, like a family photograph album they can tell us a little more about how life evolved for the San people," Dr Mazel said.

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