The Melbourne University Dating team recently travelled to the Kimberley for a week of ‘wet season’ fieldwork.
This year’s ‘wet’ was one of the biggest on record and presented a terrific opportunity for researchers to better understand the impact of the humidity and drenching rain on rock art. Visiting and observing the rock art sites in such contrasting conditions to the dry season is a vital component of research.
Standing in torrential rain, recording the pathways of the water flow and the interaction with the art pigment was a unique experience, says researcher Helen Green.
Armed with a handheld Fourier Transform-Infrared Spectrometer, on trial from Agilent technology, the scientists were able to scan the mineral accretions forming in and around rock art in the shelters and identify the different minerals present without removing any material.
An important part of the Dating project is to get a better understanding about the chemistry of the weathering of the art; we want to know how to conserve and protect the paintings and the only way to do this is to understand the formation of the mineral accretions. Recording the pathways of the water flow and observing the interaction with the art pigment – and what happens to it – will provide vital information about how to preserve the art. It may also help identify accretions most suited to dating.