Africa has the greatest variety and some of the oldest rock art on earth. With at least 10 million images spread across more than 30 countries, Africa has by far more rock art than any other continent. Rock art is extremely important for studying early cultures and beliefs. The art features different techniques and styles and much of it is magnificent and comparable to the work of artists of the last 150 years.
Establishing accurate dates for rock art has been a great challenge. Scientists use radiometric techniques to date organic components such as charcoal and binders such as blood, egg white and urine. In some parts of Africa, experts have been able estimate the art’s age based upon existence of ancient species such as crocodile – now extinct in the Sahara – or the introduction of exotic new species like the horse, camel or dog.
Africa’s rock art was created in exposed places and therefore much of it has disappeared. Nevertheless, major concentrations of rock art occur in the Sahara and southern Africa. Existing rock art was probably created within the last 12,000 years. Much of it is less than 6,000 years old. Researchers however believe that Africa’s now vanished art may have been contemporary with Europe’s great Palaeolithic cave art of between 15,000 and 33,000 years ago.