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Monday, 15 September 2014 13:17

Mining Endangers Australia’s Rock Art

Documenting ancient rock art for a living isn’t for everyone. The hours are long. The office is a dusty, rust red landscape that is regularly baked in 40C heat. The work material is often surreal, seemingly indecipherable.

But for the traditional owners of land near the remote town of Laura, a four-hour drive north-west of Cairns, the job is essential – and urgent.

The Quinkan galleries are among the largest collection of rock art in the world, stretching over 230,000 hectares of sandstone. Dating back at least 30,000 years, the galleries take their name from the Quinkan spirits – comprising helpful protectors and mischief makers – of local lore.

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A series of lines scratched into rock in a cave near the southwestern tip of Europe could indicate that Neanderthals were more intelligent and creative than previously thought.

The cross-hatched engravings inside Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar are the first known examples of Neanderthal rock art, according to a team of scientists who studied the site. The find is significant because it indicates that modern humans and their extinct cousins shared the capacity for abstract expression.

The study, released Monday by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined grooves in a rock that had been covered with sediment.

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Life-sized figures sketched into red rock cliffs in Canyonlands National Park were drawn 1,000 years more recently than what had long been believed, a team of Utah State University scientists discovered about the world-renowned rock art.

The team used modern luminescence dating techniques to analyze when the art went up in what is known as the "Great Gallery" in southeastern Utah's Horseshoe Canyon. The researchers believe the figures were created 1,000 to 2,000 years ago instead of the previously thought 2,000 to 4,000 years ago.

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