Australia has myriad rock art places that have special significance to their many Indigenous owners and a heritage resource of outstanding universal value to all humankind. The appropriate management of those places involves particular heritage considerations because of the multiple layers of significance at stake. The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act of 1999, a federal instrument, defines the criteria for the recognition of national heritage values and forms the basis for identifying the most significant natural and cultural heritage places in Australia. This chapter provides a research-based management logic for including significant rock art places on Australia’s National Heritage List. This thematic approach, founded on current Australian rock art research, recognizes the thematic structure adopted by UNESCO in its assessment of World Heritage Outstanding Universal Values, since there are logical synergies for synchronizing Australia’s National Heritage List with World Heritage Listing.
Behavioural inferences from Late Pleistocene Aboriginal Australia: seasonality, butchery, and nutrition in southwest Tasmania
Richard Cosgrove and Jillian Garvey
Detailed research into marsupial behavioural ecology and modelling of past Aboriginal exploitation of terrestrial fauna has been scarce. Poor bone preservation is one limiting factor in Australian archaeological sites, but so has been the lack of research concerning the ecology and physiology of Australia’s endemic fauna. Much research has focused on marine and fresh-water shell-fish found in coastal and inland midden sites. Detailed studies into areas such as seasonality of past human occupation and nutritional returns from terrestrial prey species have not had the same attention. This chapter reviews the current level of published Australian research into two aspects of faunal studies, seasonality and nutrition. It describes the patterns from well-researched faunal data excavated from the Ice Age sites in southwest Tasmania. Concentration is on the vertebrate fauna found in seven limestone cave sites to examine any temporal changes to seasonal butchery and identify any differences between seasonally occupied sites.
This chapter examines X-ray art in western Arnhem Land in northern Australia, considering how relatively contemporary artists used it to enrich the meaning of their work. After discussing early research on the meanings of X-ray and developing interpretations of art of the ancestors, the chapter explores the use of X-ray representation in rock art in western Arnhem Land, then analyzes the use of art in ceremony, focusing on Mardayin and Lorrkon, as well as the production of bark paintings made for sale through commercial outlets. It shows that understanding X-ray imagery helps to create intellectual connections between many areas of experience of the world. The chapter looks at the first creators, Yingarna and Ngalyod the rainbow serpents, and their role in promoting creative uses of X-ray infill and concludes that art helps initiates understand the powers of Djang not only as corporeal entities but also in more metaphysical terms.
Questions of legal and cultural rights over rock art are particularly compelling given the very different significance the art holds for Indigenous people compared to that recognized by a more general public. In the past, conflicts have arisen between the interests of the Indigenous people and those of the nation state, or of non-Indigenous mining or tourism ventures. This chapter examines the legal rights that Indigenous people have to rock art sites on their land, as well as legal issues arising over the ownership and reproduction of rock art. It examines intellectual property law, including copyright, trade marks, and breach of confidence laws, as well as cultural heritage protection laws. Finally, it considers some of the broader cultural and ethical issues raised by non-Indigenous use of rock art imagery.
Ursula K. Frederick
This chapter explores the relationship between graffiti and rock art in the context of archaeological and heritage studies. It outlines how archaeologists, and particularly rock art scholars, have approached graffiti and addresses the complexities of terminology and contested values common to this field of study. The author argues against an oversimplified polemic that has hampered the progression of graffiti/rock art research, suggesting that much may be learned about processes of identification, evaluation, and interpretation by considering graffiti and rock art as associated, albeit distinct, practices of inscription. Through an investigation of two specific sites of historical inscription—Alcatraz Island (San Francisco, US) and the North Head Quarantine Station (Sydney, Australia)—the chapter demonstrates the powerful role that inscription practices play in the making and unmaking of places and the meanings they carry.
Sven Ouzman, Peter Veth, Cecilia Myers, Pauline Heaney, and Kevin Kenneally
The multiple Aboriginal rock art traditions of Australia’s Kimberley contain primary evidence of commensal human–plant relationships that we term ‘ecoscaping’. Produced over tens of thousands of years, Kimberley rock art contains up to 25% of sites with plant depictions in some of its earliest traditions, which date to at least 16,000 years ago. A finite range of food and medicinal plants are depicted (yams, tubers, fruits, as well as paint-soaked grasses pressed onto rock walls) in structured iconographic and landscape contexts. Very few gatherer-hunter rock arts globally offer such plentiful, detailed, and archaeologically and palaeoenvironmentally contextualized evidence of plants in both daily life and symbolic thought. We suggest that this rock art is evidence of an entangled landscape that combines geography, hydrology, biological vitality, and anthropological dynamics—an ‘ecoscaping’ that differs from more deterministic formulations such as ‘domiculture’. Kimberley plant rock art is best understood as a key artefact and practice in how people managed the often extreme environmental and concomitant social change the Kimberley has experienced.
Liam M. Brady, Claire Smith, Robert G. Gunn, and Bruno David
This chapter discusses the contribution of ethnography to the study of Australian rock art. With more than 100 years of ethnographic enquiry into rock art from across the country, valuable insights into the meaning, motives, function, and symbolism of images have been identified. However, with this information comes challenges with its use (and abuse), as well as the necessity to understand the cultural contexts of interpretation and meaning-making. This chapter explores the various ways Indigenous Australians (Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders) engage with and describe their understandings of rock art in a variety of contexts. This review also highlights the complex nature of the interpretative process and the ethnographic gaze in which it is embedded. At its core, ethnographic approaches to Australian rock art reveal the multidimensional referential qualities of images found across the landscape.
Valda Blundell, Donny Woolagoodja, Janet Oobagooma, and Leah Umbagai
This chapter focuses on Gonjorong’s Cave, a rock shelter in the Kimberley region of northwest Australia. Gonjorong’s Cave contains paintings of anthropomorphic figures known as Wandjina, a distinctive feature of the Wandjina-Woongudd homeland. The Wandjina-Woongudd Community is a distinct society of Australian Aboriginal people that includes the Woddordda. This chapter first provides a background on Gonjorong’s Cave and the role of Wandjina paintings in creating the distinctive Wandjina-Woongudd cultural landscape. It then examines the meanings of Wandjina in the Woddordda’s present-day lives, with particular emphasis on why they consider it important to regularly visit sites such as Gonjorong’s Cave. It shows that rock art sites such as Gonjorong’s Cave provide evidence of the Woddordda’s deep history as the Traditional Owners of their homeland.