To progress, it is essential to apply the second type, or relative, dating.
In this case, a rock art panel may be judged to be younger, older or basically contemporaneous with another petroglyph, a site, an artifact, or other evidence of known antiquity.
Relative dating, although somewhat less satisfying than absolute dating in terms of precision, is considerably more successful for petroglyphs.
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.
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.