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Narrative or Analysis: identifying scenes in the rock art of the Kimberley and Central Desert, Australia

Author(s): June Ross

Year: 2017

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Analysis of the composition of figurative motifs within rock art panels holds the potential to provide information on the relationships intended by the artist/s between humans, between humans and animals, or between animals depicted. Two contrasting rock art assemblages from Australia illustrate this potential; the paintings from the remote Kimberley in the tropical northwest, and the diverse geometric assemblage from the arid heart of central Australia. Ethnographic data provides explanations for the most recent painted scenes in both areas, with each assemblage depicting the activities of Ancestral Beings in the creation period, known as the Tjukurrpa in the desert or the Laili in the Kimberley. However, it is the formal analysis of earlier assemblages that enables us to identify scenes and formulate relationships between the motifs depicted. Social, ceremonial, economic and gender roles can be identified in panels depicting the elegant, Kimberley anthropomorphic figures known as Gwions. Relationships between the geometric motifs within panels in the desert present a greater challenge but analysis indicates that these are likely to have been created as an active part of ritual practices.

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Narrative or Analysis: identifying scenes in the rock art of the Kimberley and Central Desert, Australia. June Ross. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430857)


Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16891

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America