Absolute and relative dating of rock
On rare occasion, archaeological deposits can accumulate up against a petroglyph panel, concealing part or all of the art.
In that case, it may be possible to discern a minimum age for the art because its creation had to precede the archaeological deposit covering it.
Different researchers have applied a variety of absolute dating methods directly to petroglyphs or to sediments covering them, including AMS (accelerator mass spectrometry) radiocarbon, cation ratio, amino acid racemization, OSL (optically stimulated luminescence), lichenometry, micro-erosion and micro-stratification analysis of patina. These techniques have yielded mixed results in terms of reliability and feasibility, but, in any case, none has been applied to date in Saudi Arabia.
It is hoped that absolute dating will be successfully implemented in the future in this region.
The patina is darker on the older images and the newer images are brighter.
Relative dating, although somewhat less satisfying than absolute dating in terms of precision, is considerably more successful for petroglyphs.The hunter is usually aided by a pack of hunting dogs.Although these people were part-time pastoralists with herds of sheep and goats, the art suggests that hunting played an important role in their subsistence.This is not typical of the rock art in Saudi Arabia, however, which tends to be exposed and lacking any settlement or camp next to the cliff face.
A palimpsest of animals from different ages at Shuwaymis: Faint images of Neolithic aurochsen (wild cattle), more recent camels and cavalryman, still younger men with exaggerated hands.
Sometimes the proximity of a campsite or settlement that is dated directly by absolute dating methods is considered helpful for determining the age of an apparently associated petroglyph panel, but caution must be exercised, since it does not always mean that the site’s inhabitants were the artists who created the art.