Thursday, 1 April 2010

Application of Science and Technologies in the Rock Art Researches: Important Techno-Tools for Documentation, Interpretation, Management and their Dating

Dr. A. K. Dubey

Senior Associate Professor, A.I.H.C. & Archaeology, Faculty of Arts,
B.H.U., Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Rock art sites are one of the best testimonies of the human spirit, and reflect the timeless qualities of passion; adventure and creativity needed for any society at any time to progress and live a meaningful quality life. Such testimonies are losing their importance due to lack of support, interest and technologies. Present paper based on the general aspects and an over view of the rock art Documentation, Interpretation, Management and Dating with the newly developed technologies.
Recent advances in dating technologies have significantly increased the number of dating opportunities for rock art relative to standard radiocarbon dating. In particular, the development of the Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS) radiometric dating, Cation Ratio (CR), Carbon isotope analysis, Amino Acid Racemisation (AAR), Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL), lichenometry and Micro-erosion. Some of the above cited techniques are introduced in India under the EIP (Early Indian Petroglyphs Project) lead by Dr. Robert G. Bednarik and his team at Auditorium Cave at Bhimbetka (near Bhopal, M.P.), Daraki-Chattan (a recently discovered cave near Bhanpura, M.P.), and Bajanibhat (a rock shelter near Kotaputli, Raj).
The important documentation techniques are Flotation Analysis, studies of Microfossils, Pollen, Phytoliths, Micowear and residues on stone implement edges, Detailed Sedimentlogy etc.
In spite of the dating technique, the Management through digital technology is also the important tool for the documentation and interpretation. The technologies are provided by the computer generated are the AutoCAD, Digital Cameras, D-stretch Camera, Google earth, G.P.S., CD-Rom which create image enhancements with AutoCAD, a computer aided drafting, programming through one can create maps and plot archaeological feature on a maps. Above all techniques can be useful for rock art study, research to access and massage information. However since one purpose of rock art recording is to preserve a record of its existence before it is destroyed by human, animal or natural force, caution should be used when considering how best to preserve that record for future use.
These details are especially helpful to understand the new dimension of the rock art research with the help of techno-tools and methods. The present paper based on the techniques and tools developed for the rock art documentation, interpretation, management and dating that will discussed in the presentation.
Keywords:- AMS, CIA, CR, AAR, OSL, EIP, Conservation, Preservation.
Rock art as the term implies is the art on rock, any type of artistic activity found on rock is rock art, which types of art?  It is still in debate, is it right that a prehistoric stone tool, which was made by our ancestor, is under the rock art? We agree because it had been done on the stone, which is a small part of rock. Ajanta, Ellora, Ellephanta etc. any art thing that has been done on the rock, that is under the rock art, because here again it has been done on the rock. Like also inscription which had been done in those times on rock itself or part of boulder or a smallest part of rock that could be stone slab, that is also rock art, why because engraving which is under rock art study but why not inscription (only those which has been done on the rock).
            However, for the study of Rock art now various techniques and applications are developed, which are helpful to understand the rock art in scientific way. Before entering in to detail about the techno-tool and applications of science in rock art study, authors’ wants to clear that the all works neither personally created nor personally feel. The details are encountered from the various articles and books. Authors have gone through the details and reconstructed its importance in the rock art study. 
            In some cases it is possible to directly date the art itself. This can be done with pigments containing organic materials, such as charcoal, plant fibers, protein binders, as well as with beeswax figures. However, some studies have shown that, with the small samples required for AMS dates, the question of provenance is crucial. For instance, McDonald recently obtained inconsistent radiocarbon dates, ranging from 6 085 29795 B.P. from charcoal taken from the same motif at a rock art site in the Sydney Basin, Australia. The important point to be drawn from this study is that micro-contamination may not be identified in those cases where only one sample is taken.
The applications of techno-tools are described below in detail:


            The number of examples of dated rock art is increasing rapidly. However, most dates have not been particularly informative because their sampling and analysis was not directed towards general questions. Clearly, there is a great range of possible dating techniques for rock art, and any particular body of such art will offer a unique combination of potential approaches. The most convincing dated art sequences are those based on a range of data and the complementary use of relative and absolute dating methods. Recent advances in dating technologies have significantly increased the number of dating opportunities for rock art relative to standard radiocarbon dating. In particular, the development of the Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS) radiometric dating means those milligrams of organic material can now be dated. Other 'new' techniques include Cation Ratio (CR), Amino Acid Racemisation (AAR), Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL), lichenometry and Micro-erosion.
Accelerator Mass Spectrometer: Before the advent of radiocarbon analysis by AMS, several grams of material were necessary to obtain a reliable decay count using conventional methods. This was a severe limitation for dating rock paintings, as it would have required completely destroying a painting in order to date it. With AMS, samples as small as 100_gor even less can be reliably analyzed, making direct dating of rock paintings a possibility. The first report of direct radiocarbon analysis of rock art was from a charcoal-pigmented painting in South Africa. Charcoal-based pigments, rich in organic carbon, are ideal substances for radiocarbon dating. Clottes et al. reported the first use of AMS to determine the age of charcoal from Paleolithic rock paintings in France, where significant work continues (Clottes,1992:583) In North America in the early 1990s, AMS was used directly on samples of charcoal from rock paintings and illustrated the so-called “old charcoal” problem. When charcoal is not present as a pigment in rock art, other organic materials that are easily identified including beeswax and plant-fiber inclusions (Cole and Watchman, 1992:27 and1993:355) have also been used to determine the direct age of rock art by AMS.
ku-xlargeCation Ratio: The Cation Ratio dating of desert varnish is based on differences in the mobility of different chemical constituents of desert varnish with some cations like potassium (K+) and calcium (Ca+) leaching out of the varnish faster than others like Titanium (Ti+). (Nelson and Chaloupka, 1995:151) If the cation-leaching curve can be calibrated using such techniques as K-Ar dating of basalt flows, tandem accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating of organic fractions, and ratios from surfaces of known age, the varnish can be dated to provide a minimum age for underlying engravings. In a series of papers, Dorn and Nobbs have explored the application of the ‘cation-ratio dating method’, developed by Dorn in arid south-western USA to a thin patina covering rock-rock art in the arid Olary region of South Australia.

1-s2Amino Acid Racemisation: AAR depends upon the presence of aluminous binders, such as blood or egg white, in paintings. The technique is based on the observation that the number of amino acids present in proteins decreases over time, which forms the basis of a decay curve using paint samples of known age. (Geib, Fairley and Field, 1992:155) However, this technique is restricted to dating paints less than 1800 years old.
1-s2Optically Stimulated Luminescence: OSL measures the number of electrons trapped in micro-fissures in quartz grains. This is correlated with to the length of time that the quartz has been removed from sunlight, which 'bleaches' out any

trapped electrons. This technique can be used to date mud wasp nests and termite tracks, which contain 'buried' quartz grains. When such nests or tracks cover, or are covered by rock art, this allows assessment of a maximum or minimum age for the art. The EIP project team of Indo-Australian scientists collected seven soil samples in 2002, three from V. N. Misra’s trench in III F-23, one from V. S. Wakankar’s trench in the adjoining Auditorium Cave, III F-24, and three from Daraki-Chattan for OSL (optically stimulated erosionluminescence) dating in Australia.
Lichenometry: Lichenometry depends upon the development of a species-specific, lichen-growth curve by measuring lichen thallus diameters on dated rock surfaces. This can then be used to calculate the minimum age of rock surfaces by measuring the thallus diameters of the same lichen species growing on these surfaces.
micro erosionMicro-Erosion Analysis: This method has been developed specifically for dating of petroglyphs (Bednarik, 1992: 279-291). Under the EIP project it has been used in India. In view of the large cupule in the stratified Acheulian deposit in Wakankar’s trench, close to Microerosion analysis was also applied to petroglyphs at Morajhari and Moda Bhata in Ajmer District, Rajasthan (Bednarik, Kumar, Watchman and Roberts, 2005: 147-197) where ages of the very early and the late Holocene were secured from cupules. It is the only method that involves the dating of the petroglyph itself, rather than some other physically related feature.
Uranium Thorium Dating: It estimates an average of the time of duration required by the process of deposition of the accretion (which covers the petroglyphs), it can only provide approximate ages for the deposit, and not estimates of the petroglyphs ages. The Chemistry Laboratory of the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmadabad scientist are working on this method.
        With the application of above techniques now the India is oldest known rock art heritage. These are cupules, and the oldest known site is in India are Auditorium Cave (Bednarik, 1996: 63-72) at Bhimbetka , Madhya Pradesh belongs to Acheulian age. Most attempts of thorium-uranium dating have shown this tradition in India to be beyond the limit of the method, 350 000 years. In view of the petroglyphs in Auditorium Cave these claims need to be carefully examined, and the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations has assembled a commission to investigate the extraordinary evidence from Bhimbetka, Daraki-Chattan and more such sites in India (Bednarik, 2001: 72).
Early Indian Petroglyphs (EIP) Project:
The EIP Project collaborates several research laboratories in Australia, and it has substantial support from the Archaeological Survey of India, the Indian Council of Historical Research and the Australia-India Council in Canberra, but also from numerous Indian scholars. This project is the first to attempt scientific dating of Indian rock art as well as to provide a comprehensive chronological framework for the Paleolithic periods of India.
1.         Auditorium Cave at Bhimbetka near Bhopal, M.P.,


2.         pppDaraki-Chattan near Bhanpura, M.P. and

3.         Bajanibhat near Kotaputli, Rajasthan are the site selected for this project. The EIP Project is a joint venture by the Rock Art Society of India (RASI) led by Giriraj Kumar and the Australian Rock Art Research Association (AURA) led by R.G.Bednarik under the aegis of IFRAO. This project has assembled an international commission to review the claims made concerning Indian early petroglyphs. The EIP project has demonstrated that currently the oldest known art in the world is in central India. It uses methods such as:
A.     Carbon isotope analysis,
B.     Optically stimulated luminescence dating,
C.     Uranium Thorium (U-Th) series dating of ferromanganeous accretions deposition,
D.     Micro erosion analysis and
E.      Archaeological excavation.
            The Commission intends to report its first findings to the international research community during 2003. Numerous methods are has been employed in this three-year project, such as;
1.      flotation analysis,
2.      studies of microfossils,
3.      pollen,
4.      phytoliths,
5. micowear and
6. residues on stone implement edges,
7. Detailed sedimentlogy etc
            According to excavator at Daraki-Chattan in its lower strata, it contains a layer of Oldowan pebble tools, which amazingly have received almost no attention so far. It must be borne in mind that the entire region between southern/eastern Africa and Levant in the west and Java and China in the east remains profoundly neglected, in terms of its hominid history. It’s all achievements are came to our knowledge only after the introduction and application of the techniques and science. To appreciate the significance of the project, it must be considered that its current terms of reference can realistically achievements to the following main achievements: 
1. The presentation of the first scientific rock art dating evidence from India, from both petroglyphs and pictograms. 
2. The clarification of the claims that Indian petroglyphs represent the oldest rock art currently known in the world, dating back to the Acheulian period. 
3. The presentation of the first comprehensive chronological framework from the entire duration of the human presence on the Indian subcontinent. 
4. The first assessment and dating of the Oldowan pebble tool industry in India. 
5. The introduction and international transfer of rock art dating technology.
            However, In the case of ancient rock art conservation, we try to retain the significance of sites by protecting the original fabric on the one hand, while promoting controlled public access, on the other. The primary problem for understanding the content of Rock-art in India is the absence of any standardized and detail documentation of the rock-art and accounts on the site proper. There are many methods and application related to true scientific approach the rock art site can be protect with the problems.
            Under the supervision of qualified conservationists and chemists, the cracks and fissures in the shelter from within and has to be filled the top and side of the cavern to be watertight Ned by using suitable material like coloured cement or lime, depending on the nature of the stone surface, mixed with powered parent rock or proper type of sand and desirable chemicals wherever necessary. In carrying out such work it has to be seen that the material foreign to rock has to be used in such a way that it matches with the original surface of the rock. To divert the flow of rain water from entering inside, suitable channels or slopes may be provided on the sides of a shelter. (Ronald, 2008:37–70) Undesirable vegetation should be periodically removed from within and top of cavern. (Prasad, 2001:13) Further, to prevent the overhanging rock projections from falling, strong masonry support even using RCC could be provided by giving it a naturalistic rock form by matching with the feature of the shelters and the environment. But it must contain a date on its less conspicuous part indicating that it is an artificial support. And also those rock blocks which are prone to fall should be glued to the wall by filling organic high molecular material. (S.P.Singh) large pins of stainless steel were can be use in the gaps between blocks, with wooden and later plastic spacing blocks. (Batarda: 111-120)
           Rock bolting can be done through Titanium Rod for better strengthening of the rock mass. The modern artificial dripline is usually of a silicon sealing compound which is applied with a pressure gun. And that should be digitally document as in the process of weathering. (Barnett, 2005:25–29) The silicon must have good bonding ability, but remain removable without damage to the rock; it must have a high thermal stability and resistance to moisture and ultra-violet radiation, and should be of an unobtrusive colour. Rock surface need to be cleaned of organic deposits before the silicon is applied. Guttering can also been use to reduce excessive capillary action of water. (Bednarik, 2007:95)
From Conservation, point of view maintenance should be done to the natural conditions and original environment of the rock art site. Conservation practices should keep sites as dry as possible should be adopted.
Management inside the Rock Art sites:
            Periodic checks should be made so that the water dose not collect on the roof of the shelter where it is slowly directed towards the art work through porous rock and through cracks and fissures on the roof. Water should be directed off the roof by removing soil and vegetation from it, and by allowing the water to runoff, by opening drainage lines to the side of the shelters. In addition some minor drainage channels should be made in the roof on the shelters using, cement and rock. In this way runoff water can be diverted away from the site. 
            To control the anti-termite treatment is to be launched taking care that this treatment also it does not damage the paintings nearby. Monitoring periodically for re-inspection is recommended preferably at the end of every succeeding wet season.
Management through digital technology:
            Computer technique provides a number of tools like AutoCAD, Digital Cameras, CD-Rom which create image enhancements with AutoCAD, a computer aided drafting, programming through one can create maps and plot archaeological feature on a maps. (Donna, 1995:35-38) Above all techniques can be useful for rock art study, research to access and massage information. However since one purpose of rock art recording is to preserve a record of its existence before it is destroyed by human, animal or natural force, caution should be used when considering how best to preserve that record for future use.
            Further from conservation and for maintenance point of view there should be involving excavation of selected rock art sites (Jeyaraj, el., at., 2004:91-100). On the research front micro-documentations of rock art is a must and scientific investigation be done for understanding of the plan and strategy of the execution of motifs and artistic creations by their authors in time and space on the site and in the entire region. The issue has to be viewed in totally for better preservation of the sites under references.
            Above all the steps which has been taken in world we should also apply in India but keep in mind that all the rules should maintain the Indian phenomena’s. The immense heritage of rock art is vulnerable to natural processes of wear, obliteration and destruction, which are further accelerated by human acts. Every day bits and pieces of rock surfaces are falling apart. Development projects, road construction, home building, and agriculture can hardly be stopped, but measures need to be taken to document and record rock art in its current state to assure that its testimony will remain for future generations.
            Lastly, the importances of sites are only emphasis with the applications of these technologies. Protection of rock art sites is a great task and government alone can’t meet this challenge properly. We can not only document and preserve the rock art sites through these major steps of technology even these techniques are very useful for the protection of this heritage.
António Pedro Batarda Fernandes, José Delgado Rodrigues, Stone consolidation experiments in rock art outcrops at the Côa Valley Archaeological Park, Portugal p.p. 111-120

Barnett, T., A. Chalmers, M. Díaz-Andreu, P. Longhurst, G. Ellis, K. Sharpe, and I. Trinks, 2005, 3D Laser Scanning for Recording and Monitoring Rock Art Erosion. INORA 41:25–29

Bednarik, R. G., 1992. A New Method To Date Petroglyphs”, Archaeometry 34(2): 279-291

Bednarik, R. G., G. Kumar, A. Watchman and R. G. Roberts, 2005. “Preliminary results of the EIP Project”. Rock Art Research 22: 147-197

Bednarik, R. G. 1996. The cupules on Chief’s Rock, Auditorium Cave, Bhimbetka. The Artefact 19: 63-72

Bednarik, R. G. 2001. The Early Indian Petroglyphs (EIP) Project. Rock Art Research 18: 72

1_MV_accelerator_mass_spectrometeramsBednarik, Robert G., 2007, Rock art science, the scientific study of Palaeoart. Aryan Books International, New Delhi. p.95

Cole, A.Watchman, Rock Art Res. 9 (1992) 27., A.Watchman, N. Cole, Antiquity 67 (1993) 355

D.E. Nelson, G. Chaloupka, C. Chippendale, M.S. Alderson, J.R. Southon, Archaeometry 37 (1995) 151

Donna yodar, 1995, Computerized Management Of Rock Art, Purakala, vol. 6 No.1-2  p. p. 35-38

Jeyaraj, V. 2004, Rock and cave Paintings of the ancient Past in India and their Care, (ed.) Studies in art and archaeology conservation, B.B.Lal commemorative Vol., A.S.Bist, S.P.Singh, Agam Kala Prakashan, Delhi, p.p. 91-100

J. Clottes, A. Beltran, J. Courtin, H. Cosquer, Antiquity 66 (1992) 583
P.R. Geib, H.C. Fairley, J. Field Archaeology 19 (1992) 155

Prasad, A.K.,2001, Recently Discovered Pre-Historic Rock Painting and Rock Inscriptions in Nawadah, Giridih, Kodarama and Jamui district of Bihar, Art and

Archaeology of Eastern India, (Proceeding of National Seminar) Edi. Nasim Akhtar, Patna Museum, Patna, p.p. 13

Ronald I. Dorn, David S. Whitley, Niccole Villa Cerveny, Steven J. Gordon, Casey
D. Allen, and Elyssa Gutbrod,  2008, The Rock Art Stability Index A New Strategy for Maximizing the Sustainability of Rock Art,  Heritage Management, Volume 1, Issue 1, Spring, Left Coast Press, pp. 37–70

Detailed provided by Dr. S.P.Singh (Director, National Museum Conservation Branch, New Delhi).