Margaret W. Conkey
This chapter explores issues regarding the interpretation of rock art. The chapter considers what interpretation is about, how we define and identify it, and what various ways rock art researchers have engaged with interpretation. Here we mention how they have drawn on concepts of style, structuralism, or shamanism as well as on formal and/or informed methods. There is consideration of the uses of analogy and the direct historical method. Overall, the chapter is framed within the question of what constitutes an ‘authorized’ interpretation and how might we evaluate various interpretations for their validity and insights.
Bruno David and Ian J. McNiven
This Introduction to The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Rock Art highlights a number of conceptual themes and issues that go to the heart of rock art research. Rock art research in the early twenty-first century is daunting in its complexity and scope due largely to major technological advances in digital recording and chronometric dating, the increasing employment of sophisticated methods and theories harnessed not just from archaeology and anthropology but also from a wide array of disciplines, and greater awareness of Indigenous voices, ethical responsibilities, and political sensitivities of working collaboratively with Indigenous communities. As archaeological and anthropological approaches to rock art mutually inform each other’s research agendas, new methodological and theoretical ways of approaching, conceptualising, and historicising rock art symbolism, biography, authorship, gender, sexuality, spiritualism, agency, and relationality continue to develop to shape future research agendas.
A New Framework for Interpreting Contact Rock Art: Reassessing the Rock Art at Nackara Springs, South Australia
Claire Smith, Jordan Ralph, Kylie Lower, Jennifer McKinnon, Matthew Ebbs, and Vincent Copley Senior
This chapter addresses the challenge of seeing beyond the motif. Based on a case study in the Mid North of South Australia, this chapter presents a new analytical framework for analyzing style in rock art and using stylistic characteristics to identify authorship. The framework can be customized to different sites and/or regions to provide more nuanced understandings of specific contact trajectories. The results of this study suggest that innovation in contact rock art initially occurs in a single aspect of style and that a sequencing of innovations may be able to provide a temporal succession for contact motifs. The wider value of this framework is that it provides a basis for developing regional or site-specific models of style that may help researchers obtain greater insight into the authorship of contact rock art in different parts of the world.
Julien Monney and Leïla Baracchini
This chapter explores the characteristics, limits, and diversity of ethnographic records produced and/or used in rock art research. By critically examining the ethnographic archives on rock art available in the global literature, the chapter addresses the conditions and processes involved in the making of these records. The authors argue that analyzing the particular social circumstances of their production is not only a prerequisite for any methodological discussion on how to use ethnographic records in interpreting rock art, but also a way to promote self-reflection about the way that we perceive, experience, interact with, and create knowledge about rock art.
Margarita Díaz-Andreu and Tommaso Mattioli
This chapter reviews evidence for relationships between acoustics and rock art by examining the antiquity and nature of such relationships, then examining evidence for music depicted or engraved in rock art. This is followed by a summary of the remains of actual musical instruments found at rock art sites, including lithophones found at or close to rock art. The sonority of rock art landscapes is then assessed, first in those cases where natural elements can unleash special sonorous effects and then in places where exceptional acoustics have been selected for the creation of artworks. The authors conclude that a consideration of sound is common in the placement of rock art and that it should therefore be more routinely considered when recording rock art. The significance of sound in social relations and religious activities makes this aspect of rock art sites essential for understanding the societies that produced it.