Charcoal drawings found on the wall of a cave in the Northern Territory are the oldest in Australia, and among the oldest in the world. Created 28,000 years ago, the Aboriginal art was discovered by archaeologists in a rock shelter known as Nawarla Gabarnmang. Experts were able to determine the drawing’s age with radiocarbon dating because it was made with an organic material, as opposed to the mineral paints that were often used in ancient art.

Bryce Barker of the University of Southern Queensland discovered the Australian cave art last June, and just recently received the results of the carbon dating from New Zealand’s University of Waikato radiocarbon laboratory. The cave where the art was found shows signs of being occupied for 45,000 years, and contains thousands of additional drawings.

At 28,000 years old, this drawing is older than any other cave art found in Australia that can be dated with certainty. Other Aboriginal drawings, such as those in the Namagdi National Park, pictured above, could be up to 40,000 years old. Australia’s Whitsunday Islands are also home to a number of cave paintings, including unusual and mysterious non-figurative, abstract art.

The oldest-known radiocarbon-dated cave art in the world is in the El Castillo cave of Spain. These drawings, which scientists dated using a technique known as uranium-thorium dating, are at least 40,800 years old.

Photo credit: Martyman/Wikimedia Commons