Mass Spectrometric Radiocarbon Dates from Three Rock Paintings of Known Age


Link to Full Text

Download Full Text

Publication Date


Publication Title

American Antiquity

Volume Number


Issue Number



Radiocarbon age determinations are presented on three hieroglyphic texts from Naj Tunich cave in Guatemala containing Maya calendar dates. The ages obtained are on average 110–140 years older than the calendar dates. Several possible reasons are discussed for this discrepancy: one that is applicable to all radiocarbon dates on charcoal, one that applies to rock paintings, and one that is specific for the tropics. Possible problems with the ages ascribed to the Maya calendar dates are also discussed. Even with the potential problems that may exist, these dates still fall within 110–140 years of the ascribed calendar dates. Caution is urged in the interpretation of dates on charcoal pigments from rock paintings; consideration of the “old wood” and “old charcoal” factors is important.

Document Type


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)