Methods of dating archaeological evidence
Ochres from western Arnhem Land Ochres give a rich warm colour to contemporary artworks from the Western Desert, Kimberley and Arnhem Land.
Some of these materials are rooted strongly in tradition - such as the use of ochres in the Kimberley and, to a lesser extent, ochres on bark from Arnhem Land.For example, in Arnhem Land stencils are common in the earliest rock art - there are numerous stencils of boomerangs, though these are no longer used in Arnhem Land except as clapsticks for music, and they include all the main types of boomerangs ever found in Australia.Stencilled images occur widely across Australia and some fine examples are found in the Carnarvon Range in central Queensland: George Chaloupka has described how one old man in Arnhem Land remembered being carried as a child on his father's shoulder's as his father climbed up a log leaning against a rock wall.His bones had been covered in red ochre, staining the burial pit pink.Since ochre does not occur near Lake Mungo, some of this pigment must have been carried there.Some pieces have flattened surfaces indicating use and there is other evidence of pieces of ochre being ground up or pulverised.
Most have been carbon dated with ages between 10 000 and 40 000 years (the effective limit of carbon dating), and one site had what appears to be an artists palette of ochres - dated 18 000 years old.
The rich dark red in some of Jack Britten's paintings comes from the use of kangaroo blood mixed with ochre powder.
Traditional use of ochres included not only body and other painting (such as bark and wooden sculptures), but also a role in mortuary ceremonies.
Regardless of the exact age, the Mungo 3 burial (through the use of ochre paint) is evidence of communication and ceremonial practices, and perhaps also of trade, amongst the early human residents of eastern Australia.
Ochre is plentiful across most of Australia and it occurs in many of the older archaeological sites.
The use of ochre pigments is thus a very long tradition in Australia.