ArticlePDF Available

The International Centre of Rock Art Dating and Conservation (ICRAD)

Authors:

Abstract

This paper reports the establishment of the International Centre for Rock Art Dating and Conservation at Hebei Normal University, China.
111
Rock Art Research 2016 - Volume 33, Number 1.
ORIENTATION
The International Centre of Rock Art
Dating and Conservation (ICRAD)
By rOBert g. Bednarik
The rock art dating expedition of June 2014, co-
vering a series of sites in three provinces of China
(Henan, Ningxia and Jiangsu Provinces), has resulted
in an unprecedented increase in credible rock art age
estimates in China (Tang et al. 2014, 2016). Within just
three weeks it produced twenty-seven ‘direct dating’
results from eleven sites of over twenty investigated,
thereby more than doubling the number of all rock

previous thirty years (Wang 1984; Qin et al. 1987; cf.
Li 1991; Bednarik and Li 1992). This successful project


its leader, Tang Huisheng, to consider establishing a
rock art dating facility in China. He announced this
intention at the Business Meeting of the International
Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO) on 18

the necessary approvals and funding. In selecting a
site for this international centre he considered seve-ral
potential candidates and then decided on the Archae-
ology Department of Hebei Normal University in
Shijiazhuang, primarily because it is a venue with an
emphasis on advanced technologies. This would be


available at Hebei. This includes facilities for AMS
radiocarbon, uranium-thorium and OSL analyses.
The age estimation (‘dating’) of rock art is of par-
ticular importance to archaeology, because if its age is



a reliable indication of its age, rock art simply has
no temporal depth and no archaeological relevance.
Without knowing whether a particular corpus of rock
art is 200 years or 20 000 years old, any archaeological
      
vain. And there have been many cases where archae-
ologists have assumed that rock art that is in fact in
the order of 200 or so years old is in excess of 20 000
  
  

credible dating, rock art lacks any archaeological depth
 
emphasises the fundamental need for age estimation
of rock art, a need that the newly created facility at
Hebei Normal University will endeavour to address
through a broadly based program.
In establishing ICRAD the initial emphasis will be
on the creation of a fully comprehensive archive of all
the direct rock art dating work that has been conducted
up to the present time and in the entire world. So
this new research centre will not only serve Chinese
researchers; it will become a world repository of all
relevant work. In this initial goal, ICRAD will have the
full support and collaboration of IFRAO, through its

will hold these extensive records and will eventually
make them available to the researchers of the world
through the Internet, thus providing an invaluable
resource to all rock art students of the world. ICRAD
will also forge links with various institutes in various
countries, particularly in those that have been most

the same time, ICRAD intends to commence its own
     
ding on the work that has been conducted in China in
recent years (Tang and Gao 2004; Tang and Mei 2008;
Tang 2012; Tang et al. 2014, 2016).
Finally, ICRAD will also develop teaching capabi-
lity. As an initial step, Professor Tang announced the
appointment of four Visiting Professors at the very
opening ceremony of the facility (Fig. 1), all of whom
were present at this event. They are Maxime Aubert,
Robert G. Bednarik and Paul S. C. Taçon from Austra-
lia, and Giriraj Kumar from India. Tang has secured
funding for capital expenditures, which will largely
      
addition to that already available to him at Hebei
Normal University. On that basis the successful opera-
tion of ICRAD as an international research centre
seems assured for years to come, and the establishment
of this facility represents a major boost for global rock
art research.
REFERENCES
, P. G. and J.  1997. Journey through the Ice Age.
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London.
Rock Art Research 2016 - Volume 33, Number 1.
112
, R. G. and  F. 1992. Rock art dating in China: past
and future. The Artefact 14: 25–33.
 F. 1991. Rock art at huashan, Guangxi Province, China.
Rock Art Research 8(1): 29–32.
   M. and  J. 1987. The investigation and
research of the cli and mural paintings of the Zuojiang river
valley in Guangxi. Guangxi National Printing House,
Nanning.
, H. 2012. New discovery of rock art and megalithic
sites in the Central Plain of China. Rock Art Research 29(2):
157–170.
, H. and   
the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Rock Art Research 21(2):
161–172.
 and G.  2014. Preliminary
report of the 2014 rock art dating expedition of China.
Purakala 24: 63–75.

 W. and R. G.  2016.
The 2014 microerosion dating project in China. Journal of
Archaeological Science – Reports
, H. and 
the prehistoric site at Jiangjunya. Southeast Culture 202(2):
11–23.

Province (People’s Republic of China). Rock Art Research
1(2): 75–90.
, J. 1995. The age of the Côa valley (Portugal) rock art:
validation of archaeological dating to the Palaeolithic and

times. Antiquity 69: 883–901.
rar 33-1194

... This agency of Hebei Normal University was formally established on 16 June 2016 [25]. That university was chosen because it already possessed facilities for AMS radiocarbon, uranium-thorium and OSL analyses, three of the methods used in rock art dating work. ...
Article
Full-text available
The most extensive corpus of ancient immovable cultural heritage is that of global rock art. Estimating its age has traditionally been challenging, rendering it difficult to integrate archaeological evidence of early cultural traditions. The dating of Chinese rock art by ‘direct methods’ began in the late 1990s in Qinghai Province. Since then, China has acquired the largest body of direct dating information about the rock art of any country. The establishment of the International Centre for Rock Art Dating at Hebei Normal University has been the driving force in this development, with its researchers accounting for most of the results. This centre has set the highest standards in rock art age estimation. Its principal method, microerosion analysis, secured the largest number of determinations, but it has also applied other methods. Its work with uranium-thorium analysis of carbonate precipitates in caves is of particular significance because it tested this widely used method. The implications of this work are wide-ranging. Most direct-dating of rock art has now become available from Henan, but results have also been reported from Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Jiangsu, Hubei, Guangxi, Yunnan, Qinghai, Tibet, and Xinjiang. Intensive work by several teams is continuing and is expected to result in a significantly better understanding of China’s early immovable cultural heritage.
... Professor Tang Huisheng's decision to establish the International Centre of Rock Art Dating and Conservation, publicly announced on 18 July 2014 at the IFRAO Congress in Guiyang City (Bednarik 2016), has led to its establishment at a ceremony at Hebei Normal University in Shijiazhuang on 16 June 2016. That university already possessed facilities for AMS radiocarbon, uranium-thorium and OSL analyses. ...
Article
Full-text available
The paper describes the recent establishment and subsequent development of the International Centre for Rock Art Dating and Conservation in Hebei Province, China. It is proposed that the data processed by this facility will need to be of a testable nature. Therefore the precise sampling point of 'direct dating' work in rock art age estimation needs to be re-locatable by other scientists.
Article
Full-text available
The various methods that have so far been applied to the dating of rock art in China are considered and their effectiveness is examined. The approaches are compared and contrasted with those employed in various other parts of the world, particularly in the light of the new methodology of direct dating. The utility of new techniques is considered for future dating work on Chinese rock art, by discussing their potential applicability, the tendency towards over-sophisticated methods, their reliability and their relevance for Chinese researchers. Guidelines are presented for future strategies in this field.
Article
Full-text available
The dating studies of the ‘modern rock-art scientists’, when critically examined, are found not to show that the Côa valley petroglyphs are of recent age. Their Upper Palaeolithic characteristics, and therefore their likely late Pleistocene age, are consistent with their archaeological context.
Article
Full-text available
Since the turn of this century, an immense amount of rock art has been discovered in Henan Province (located in the Central Plains region of China), centred at Mt Juci. Over 90 percent of the rock art consists of cupules and the remainder comprises linear groove paterns, chessboard-like designs and other motifs. The rock art features mainly ground motifs and paterns chiselled by metal tools. There are a variety of cupules, varying in size, depth and arrangement, e.g. occurring in rows, concentric paterns and so on. Rock art was executed on over 10000 boulders, some of which could be classified as megalithic sites, such as menhirs, dolmen, 'stone altars' and the like. The cupules and the megaliths from the Central Plains region appear to show a structural context, which will help us to understand and identify their cultural nature, contents and ages. Based on cross-dating, their production could be considered as spanning the Neolithic and the Bronze Age.
Rock art at huashan, Guangxi Province, China
  • F Li
Li F. 1991. Rock art at huashan, Guangxi Province, China. Rock Art Research 8(1): 29–32.
Dating analysis of rock art in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau
  • H Tang
  • Z Gao
Tang, H. and Gao Z. 2004. Dating analysis of rock art in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Rock Art Research 21(2): 161-172.
Preliminary report of the 2014 rock art dating expedition of China
  • H Tang
  • R G Bednarik
  • G Kumar
Tang, H., R. G. Bednarik and G. Kumar 2014. Preliminary report of the 2014 rock art dating expedition of China. Purakala 24: 63-75.
The investigation and research of the cliff and mural paintings of the Zuojiang river valley in Guangxi. Guangxi National Printing House
  • S Qin
  • T Qin
  • M Lu
  • J Yü
Qin S., Qin T., Lu M. and Yü J. 1987. The investigation and research of the cliff and mural paintings of the Zuojiang river valley in Guangxi. Guangxi National Printing House, Nanning.
Dating and some other issues on the prehistoric site at
  • H G Tang
  • Kumar
  • W Liu
  • B Xiao
  • H Yang
  • J Zhang
  • H Lu Xiao
  • J Yue
  • Y Li
  • W Gao
  • R G Bednarik
Tang, H. G. Kumar, Liu W., Xiao B., Yang H., Zhang J., Lu Xiao H., Yue J., Li Y., Gao W. and R. G. Bednarik 2016. The 2014 microerosion dating project in China. Journal of Archaeological Science -Reports Tang, H. and Mei Y. 2008. Dating and some other issues on the prehistoric site at Jiangjunya. Southeast Culture 202(2): 11-23.
An introduction to rock paintings in Yunnan Province (People's Republic of China)
  • N Wang
Wang N. 1984. An introduction to rock paintings in Yunnan Province (People's Republic of China). Rock Art Research 1(2): 75-90.