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Articles on Rock art

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Josie Maralngurra touching her hand stencil made when she was around 12. In the background are three white barramundi fish figures with red line-work also created by her father Djimongurr. Photograph by Fiona McKeague, copyright Parks Australia

Friday essay: ‘this is our library’ – how to read the amazing archive of First Nations stories written on rock

Australia’s stunning galleries of rock art are vast repositories of knowledge that can teach us much.
Adventurer Francis Birtles in his car with a man identified as Indigenous artist Nayombolmi. National Library of Australia

Aboriginal art on a car? How an Indigenous artist and an adventurer met in the 1930 wet season in Kakadu

One was a celebrity adventurer, the other was a skilled Indigenous artist who painted everything in sight. A new look at old photographs confirms their meeting.
Painting of a raider on horseback (bottom right) with a musket and domestic stock. A ‘rain-animal’ (top right) was likely summoned to wash away the raiders’ tracks. Courtesy of Sam Challis and Brent Sinclair-Thomson

South Africa’s bandit slaves and the rock art of resistance

Runaway slaves joined indigenous Khoe-San people and raided colonial farms. The rock art they left in their hideouts tells a fascinating story.
Rock paintings from the main gallery at Djulirri in Namunidjbuk clan estate, showing traditional Aboriginal motifs as well as European boats, airplanes, and more. Photo by Sally K May.

Threat or trading partner? Sailing vessels in northwestern Arnhem Land rock art reveal different attitudes to visitors

Pictures of boats and ships in rock art at the northwestern tip of Australia show the European incursions from the 1800s — but also the much earlier and lesser known sea trade with southeast Asia.
This Warty Pig is part of a panel dated to more than 45,500 years in age. Basran Burhan/Griffith University

How climate change is erasing the world’s oldest rock art

The ancient cave paintings have only begun to tell us about the lives of the earliest people who lived in Australasia. The art is disappearing just as we are beginning to understand its significance.
December 1972: Billy Miargu, with his daughter Linda on his arm, and his wife Daphnie Baljur. In the background, the newly painted kangaroo. Photograph by George Chaloupka, now in Parks Australia's Archive at Bowali.

‘Our dad’s painting is hiding, in secret place’: how Aboriginal rock art can live on even when gone

How does rock art matter? New research finds it can act as a kind of intergenerational media –even when no longer visible to the eye.
Detail of the ceiling paintings of the San people in the Drakensberg, South Africa. Courtesy © Stephen Townley Bassett

An ancient San rock art mural in South Africa reveals new meaning

The team from Wits University returned to a well-known ceiling panel in the Maloti-Drakensberg mountains, armed with new knowledge about the beliefs of the San people who made the paintings.
This hunting scene, painted 44,000 years ago, is the oldest known work of representational art in the world. Ratno Sardi

Indonesian cave paintings show the dawn of imaginative art and human spiritual belief

A recent cave art discovery in remote Indonesia is changing our understanding of the beginnings of art and the emergence of religious-like thinking in the early human story.
Ranger Trevor Bramwell on the walk up to the Split Rock art galleries in Cape York’s Quinkan Country in 2017. Rebekah Ison/AAP

Budj Bim’s world heritage listing is an Australian first – what other Indigenous cultural sites could be next?

The World Heritage Listing for Victoria’s Budj Bim fish traps was ground-breaking. Here are five other Australian Indigenous sites that also deserve greater attention.
The Enderby Island ship image depicting His Majesty’s Cutter Mermaid, which visited the Dampier Archipelago in 1818. Courtesy: Murujuga Dynamics of the Dreaming ARC Project

The Murujuga Mermaid: how rock art in WA sheds light on historic encounters of Australian exploration

An image of a ship on a rock in Western Australia’s Dampier Archipelago depicts HMC Mermaid – the main vessel of Phillip Parker King, an unsung hero of Australian exploration.
Detail of the Connecticut Inscription, with image enhancement. Centre for Rock Art Research and Management database

Rock art shows early contact with US whalers on Australia’s remote northwest coast

Etchings over much earlier Aboriginal engravings show foreign whalers made contact with Australia’s remote northwest long before colonial settlement of the area.
Paintings of human figures from East Kalimantan. NB: The human figures, originally mulberry-coloured, have been digitally traced over to enhance the art. Pindi Setiawan

Borneo cave discovery: is the world’s oldest rock art in Southeast Asia?

The cave paintings in Borneo show people and animals and are now thought to be the world’s oldest example of figurative art.

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