PREHISTORIC rock paintings are a source of fascination across the world. Aside from their beauty, there’s deep meaning in these strokes, which depict ancient rituals and important symbols.
To learn more about these murals, researchers have historically resorted to sampling methods that are damaging to the artwork, contradicting the archaeological tenets of conservation. Today, scientists report use of “X-ray vision” to gain brand-new insights about the layers of paint in rock art in Texas without needless damage.
The researchers presented their results recently at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition.
“In this particular work, we used a technique called portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF), in which a handheld instrument can be carried to a site and used right there, on the spot,” says Karen Steelman, who led the study.
“It gives you the elemental analysis of a specific material, and is the first step in figuring out how ancient artists used different materials to make their paintings.” – American Chemical Society