The Rock Art of Aboriginal Australia from Pleistocene to the Present

Josephine Flood

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This paper presents a brief overview of the development and character of Australian rock art and what it tells us about the continent’s pre-history. I focus particularly on Australia’s earliest art and the issues of its origins, affinities, homogeneity and conservatism. The systematic study of Australia’s earliest rock art began at Sydney University under John Clegg and was continued by many of his students. Natalie Franklin has developed her ‘Discontinuous Dreaming Network Model’ to explain the distribution of the Panaramitee tradition on the mainland (see here chapter in this monograph), so here I look particularly at the expression of the same ancient tradition in the remote island of Tasmania. Earliest dates, forms and sequences of rock art are discussed, especially in the Top End of Australia, and then I turn to the Victoria River region lying between the Kimberley and Arnhem Land. This project involved archaeological excavation, recording and conservation of rock art and ethnographic recording from Wardaman Traditional Owners, and I emphasise conservatism in Aboriginal art. Attention is drawn to some of the unsolved mysteries in Australian rock art, such as the origin of cupules; of the Gwion and Dynamic figurative styles and the dating of depictions of extinct megafauna.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAesthetics, Applications, Artistry and Anarchy: Essays in Prehistoric and Contemporary Art: A Festschrift in honour of John Kay Clegg
    Editors Jillian Huntley and George Nash
    Place of PublicationOxford
    ISBN (Print)978-1-78491-999-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


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