Despite these interesting insights, researchers have been limited in their work by the impossibility to accurately and directly date the artworks.
Dating rock art directly is about coming up with a precise date for when it was created.
The idea is to use the same principles as traditional radiocarbon dating, but a much smaller sample of painting is necessary.
The rock art in questions is located at 14 sites in three different regions of Southern Africa: the Thune Dam, Botswana, the Phuthiatsana Valley, Lesotho and the Maclear District in South Africa.
For years, experts have known the meanings behind the ancient images, but have been unable to determine when they were created.
Since rock art reflected their spiritual world, we may get new insights on their society and the cultural and spiritual connections they shared with other tribes", Bonneau said.
The Southern region of Africa is known for its rich and detailed collection of rock art left by ancient hunters and gathers, but as much as these creations are well-understood, their exact dates are not.
More than their actual age, what is important here is that we are now sure of these paintings' dates".
The findings could also improve scientists' knowledge of the hunter-gatherer society that produced the art, and of the San culture living in Southern Africa.All of these obstacle have made it hard to establish precise dates for rock art found in Southern Africa.Paintings in the Apollo 11 cave in Namibia have been dated to 25,000 years ago, but these results are highly controversial.Their complete findings are now published in the Journal Antiquity.Hunter-gatherer rock art in Southern Africa is made up both of paintings and engravings, which were produced by ancient communities associated with the present-day San (bushmen) culture.The most common dating method is radiocarbon dating (Carbon-14 dating) but for it to be used, there needs to be traces of carbon in the paintings.