Rock art is globally the most important visual record of humanity’s ancient past
Rock art consists of paintings, drawings, stencils, prints, petroglyphs, sculptures and figures made with beeswax, in caves and rock shelters, on rock platforms and boulders.
These are special, often spectacular places that reflect ancient experience, identity, history, spirituality and relationships to land. An important aspect of rock art is that it is fixed in place.
Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research collaborators:
Samuel Dix, Emily Miller, Marcela Ortega-Rincón, Roxanne Tsang
ROCK ART IN AUSTRALIA AND SOUTHEAST ASIA
Australia has one of the most outstanding and diverse rock art records. The earliest rock art of northern Australia and nearby Southeast Asia was made at least 30,000-40,000 years ago. In many parts of Australia and some locations in Southeast Asia, rock art was made until the second half of the 21st Century, unlike Europe where the practice ceased thousands of years ago.
Professor Paul Taçon leads rock art research at Griffith. He has more than 85 months field experience in Australia, Canada, China, Southeast Asia, southern Africa and elsewhere, and has made many important discoveries, especially in Australia’s Northern Territory. ARCHE members take a broad approach to the study of rock art with projects in northern Australia, various parts of Southeast Asia and China focused on scientifically dating rock art, new survey and recording, conservation, new ways to interpret and promote rock art for the general public and the significance of rock art for Indigenous peoples.
- History places: Wellington Range rock art in global context: with Dr Sally K. May (Australian National University), Dr Liam Brady (Monash University), Dr Duncan Wright (Australian National University), Joakim Goldhahn (Linnaeus University, Sweden), Professor Ines Domingo Sanz (University of Barcelona).
- The peopling of East Asia and Australasia: with Professor David Lambert, Dr. C. Millar, Professor E. Willerslev, Dr D. Curnoe (UNSW), and R. Li (initially funded with ARC LP12).
- Sarawak rock art and human evolution: with Mr I. Datan (Sarawak Museum), Dr C. Leh Moi Ung (Satawak Museum), Mr M.S.S William (Sarawak Museum), Dr D Curnoe (UNSW), and Ms Rachael Hoerman (supervised U. Hawaii PhD student) (various small grants).
- The Mirarr rock art project: with Dr Sally K. May (Australian National University), Dr Duncan Wright (Australian National University), Mr John Hayward, (supervised Australian National University PhD student) and Mr Iain Johnston (supervised Australian National University PhD student) and others (funded by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation).
- The Late Pleistocene peopling of East Asia and associated climate-environment history: with D. Curnoe (UNSW), X. Ji (Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, Kunming, China) and others (initially funded with ARC DP08).
- Australian rock art conservation: with Professor S. Sullivan (Stepwise Heritage & Tourism), Mr. N. Hall (Stepwise Heritage & Tourism), Dr. Neville Agnew (The Getty Conservation Institute), Ms Tanya Koeneman (Environment NSW) and others.
- Australian rock art history, conservation and Indigenous well-being (ARC FL16 in review).
- Rock art dating in Sulawesi: Associate Professor Maxime Aubert with Dr Adam Brumm, M. Ramli, T. Sutikna, E. W. Saptomo, B. Hakim.
- Rock art dating in Borneo: Associate Professor Maxime Aubert with Dr Pindi Sttiawan
- Rock art dating in China: Associate Professor Maxime Aubert with Benjamin Smith, Professor Paul Taçon and Tang Huisheng
- The rock art of the Philippines: Associate Professor Maxime Aubert with Professor Paul Taçon
- The rock art of Altai: Associate Professor Maxime Aubert with Professor Paul Taçon
- Conceptualising a global rock-art database through practice-led research: Centralising heritage data collections using a collaborative approach exploring linked data and information visualisation within an open source application: with Mr Robert Haubte (supervised Griffith PhD student) and Dr Jason Nelson.
- The archaeological investigation of rock art in the Philippines: with Ms Andrea Jalandoni (supervised Griffith PhD student) and Associate Professor Maxime Aubert.
- Siberian rock art as an indicator of ethno-cultural areas of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age: with Ms Irina Ponomareva (supervised Griffith PhD student) and Associate Professor Maxime Aubert.
- Boundaries, connections and cultural heritage management challenges: the rock art of the Chillagoe-Mungana limestone belt, Queensland: with Ms Nicola Winn (supervised Griffith PhD student) and Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton
2016-2018 Australian Research Council Discovery Project, $490,100
History places: Wellington Range rock art in global context
This project aims to investigate one of Australia’s most extraordinary bodies of rock art, spread across Arnhem Land’s Wellington Range, in order to answer important archaeological research questions, provide traditional owners with a comprehensive digital record of their rock art heritage and develop a long-term management plan. Field research will include survey, 2D and 3D rock art recording, limited excavation and sampling for dating. The project is designed to situate Wellington Range rock art in regional and global contexts in order to better understand long-term north Australian Aboriginal experience and its expression in relation to other hunter-gatherer groups and to gain new insight into human cultural and cognitive development.
Collaborators: Dr Sally K. May (Australian National University), Dr Liam Brady (Monash University), Dr Duncan Wright (Australian National University), Professor Joakim Goldhahn (Linnaeus University, Sweden), Professor Ines Domingo Sanz (University of Barcelona).
2014-16 Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award, $395,205
The oldest rock art in Asia and the early human occupation of island Southeast Asia
Recent research revealed that humans were producing rock paintings on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi by at least 39 thousand years ago (and possibly up to 46 thousand years ago). The rock art, therefore, is essentially contemporaneous with the earliest cave art in Europe and may be the world’s oldest given the arrival of Homo sapiens in Australia at least 50 thousand years ago. This project will further investigate the early rock art of Sulawesi as well as other key Indonesian islands located along likely migration routes from Borneo to New Guinea. The results will have major implications for our understanding of the cultural behaviour and dispersal of the earliest modern humans to colonise Southeast Asia and Australia.
Sole investigator: Associate Professor Maxime Aubert.
- Haubt, R., & Taçon, P.S.C. (2016). A collaborative, ontological and information visualization model approach in a centralized rock art heritage platform. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 10, 837–846.
- Huntley, J., Westaway, K. E., Gore, D. B., Aubert, M., Ross, J., & Morwood, M. J. (2016). Non-Destructive or non-invasive? The potential effect of X-ray fluorescence spectrometers on luminescence age estimates of archaeological samples. Geoarchaeology: An International Journal, 31, 592–602.
- Huntley, J., & Galamban, C. F. (2016). The material scientific investigation of rock art: contributions from non-invasive X-ray techniques. In R. Bednarik, D. Fiore, M. Basile, G. Kumar and T. Huisheng (eds.), Palaeoart and materiality: the scientific study of rock art, pp. 41–58. Archaeopress, Oxford.
- Ji, X., Curnoe, D., Taçon, P.S.C., Zhende, B., Ren, L., Mendoza, R., … Du, B. (2016). Cave use and palaeoecology at Maludong (Red Deer Cave), Yunnan, China. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 8, 277–283.
- Marshall, M. and P.S.C. Taçon. (2014). Past and present, traditional and scientific: the conservation and management of rock art sites in Australia. In T. Darvill and A.P.B. Fernandes (eds.), Open-air rock-art conservation and management: state of the art and future perspectives, pp.214-228. Routledge, London.
- Taçon, P.S.C. (2017). The rock art of South and East Asia (particularly India, Southeast Asia and China). In B. David and I. (eds.), Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology and Anthropology of Rock Art, Oxford University Press, Oxford. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190607357.013.4
- Taçon, P.S.C., Huisheng, T., & Aubert, M. (2016). Naturalistic Animals and Hand Stencils In The Rock Art Of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Northwest China. Rock Art Research, 33(1), 19–31.
- Taçon, P.S.C. and Marshall, M. (2014). Conservation or crisis? The future of rock art management in Australia. In Y. Zhang (ed.), A monograph of rock art research and protection, pp. 119-141. Zhong Guo Zang Xue Chu Ban She/ China Tibetology Publishing House, Beijing.
- Taçon, P.S.C., Tan, N.H., O’Connor, S., Ji, X., Gang, L., Curnoe, D., Bulbeck, D., Hakim, B., Sumantri, I., Than, H., Sokrithy, I., Chia, S., Khun-Neay, K. and Kong, S. (2014). Global implications of early surviving rock art of greater Southeast Asia. Antiquity 88(342):1050-1064.
- Wright, D., Stephenson, B., Taçon, P.S.C., Williams, R. N., Fogel, A., Sutton, S., & Ulm, S. (2016). Exploring ceremony: the archaeology of a mens meeting house (Kod) on Mabuyag, Western Torres Strait. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 26(4), 721–740.