Dating beeswax pictograms from Gode Roriso in Ethiopia

Pierluigi Rosina*, Hugo Gomes, George H. Nash, Tadele Solomon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


In September 2013 pigment samples were taken by one of the authors from pictograms inside the Goda Roriso rock-shelter.1 The samples originated from white beeswax, previously analysed by micro-Raman Spectroscopy. In addition to the samples, a series of chronometric dates were made from the same substance. The radiocarbon dates were produced using Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS).Stylistically, the pictograms from Goda Roriso originate from an Ethiopian pastoral rock-art tradition that is associated with a Neolithic agro-pastoral economy, chronologically attributed by the scholars to 4000 until 1300BP. Our initial thought was that, based on style, the pictograms, in particular the images of humped bovines, fell into a date range of between 2000 and 2500 years BP. The results revealed an unexpected range of dates: AD1021-1060 and AD1062-1155 (for sample Beta358358) and AD894-928 and AD934-1017 (for sample Beta358359). Absolute dating demonstrated that beeswax application was not a recent event, but doesn't belong to Neolithic Period. Based on secure chronometric dating, the beeswax paintings of Goda Roriso are the oldest of their type outside Australia. In this brief paper, we argue that beeswax forms an important by-product of beekeeping and that its dates from this remote corner of Africa are synchronous with beeswax paintings found elsewhere, in particular, within pre- and post-colonial Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-212
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • AMS dating
  • Beeswax pigment
  • Ethiopia
  • Rock art


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