Rock surface luminescence dating of prehistoric rock art from central Iberia

Nasrin Karimi Moayed*, Reza Sohbati, Andrew S. Murray, Eike F. Rades, Morteza Fattahi, Juan F. Ruiz López

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Rock art paintings are notoriously difficult to date numerically. Recently, luminescence dating has been shown to provide reliable rock surface burial ages in various archaeological settings. Here we use the cross-cutting relationship between a fallen rock and two paintings of the Iberian Levantine (older) and Schematic (younger) styles to constrain the age of the paintings by dating the rockfall event using rock surface luminescence dating. Infrared-stimulated luminescence (IRSL) signals as a function of depth into the buried face of the talus border indicate that the IRSL signal measured at 50°C (IR50) was sufficiently reset to a depth of about 1.6 mm prior to burial. An uncorrected IR50 age of 1.6 ± 0.2 ka was calculated for the rockfall event by dividing the surface equivalent dose (De) by the total dose rate. This age was corrected using both conventional and field-to-laboratory saturation approaches to yield indistinguishable ages of 2.7 ± 0.5 and 2.9 ± 0.3 ka, respectively. Since the panel with Schematic art was first available to the artist after the rockfall, we conclude the Schematic rock art at Villar del Humo is younger than ~2.9 ka. The Levantine rock art was painted on a panel constrained by the talus boulder before detachment, and so it is likely to be older than ~2.9 ka.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)319-334
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • infrared-stimulated luminescence (IRSL)
  • Levantine style
  • Luminescence–depth profile
  • Rock art
  • Rock surface luminescence dating
  • Schematic style


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