Centre for Rock Art Research + Management

Western Desert

The Canning Stock Route

Investigators

Over the last decade, Western Desert custodians have been increasingly concerned about the protection and management of Aboriginal sites along the Canning Stock Route. Non-moderated impacts on both cultural sites (e.g. rock art galleries) and totemic sites (places and landscapes withJukurrpa - dreaming) have accelerated with the increase of 4WD and tourism generally along this iconic transect.

AN ARC Linkage Project (through ANU) was completed in 2011. This achieved the following outcomes:

  • Accurate mapping and documentation of custodial values attached to physical and totemic cultural sites along and adjacent the Canning Stock Route;
  • Comprehensive inventory of all published and grey literature;
  • Text and modules which can be used for signage, interpretive materials, a Plan of Management, regional agreements and NRM/CRM planning;
  • Training in recording sites, photography, geospatial mapping and filming;
  • Development of moderated web-enabled data base for Aboriginal organisations managing cultural sites along the Stock Route.
  • The researchers explored the nature, distribution, age, variation and significance of rock art along the Canning Stock Route. A major rock art recording programme documented the carious values of interest to the researchers and custodians. Pigment samples were collected and these have provided the first reliable dating of arid-zone pigment art;
  • Greater awareness of the cultural and scientific values and public education about the very long history of Aboriginal occupation associated with the Canning Stock Route has resulted from publications - as approved and developed in conjunction with Traditional Owners.

Professors Veth and McDonald continue to work with the Western Desert custodians - and their prescribed body corporate(s), in the development of Ranger training and site documentation and interpretation for the development of Indigenous Protected Areas long the Canning Stock Route.

Back to top


Mobilising Remote Aboriginal Art Centre Records for Art HistoryMobilising Remote Aboriginal Art Centre Records for Art History

Investigators

In collaboration with the University of Wollongong, this project aims to mobilise the archives of remote Aboriginal art centres to place remote artists on the map of an emerging global art history. These archives are a repository of details about the careers of remote artists, and will be used to address some of the central concerns of international art historians. These include the relationship of art to craft, the emergence of style and the cross-cultural, cosmopolitan nature of art. Through a series of publications and a monograph, the work of remote artists will be made relevant to these central preoccupations of art history around the world, thus putting remote artists into international debates.

Back to top

Pigment dating in the Western Desert

Investigators

As part of the Canning Stock Route Project, almost 50 samples were collected for radiocarbon dating. These are mostly from pigment art - although crusts overlying engravings have also been sampled. These have provided first reliable dating of arid-zone pigment art.

This work is continuing with the analysis of the pigments (using a variety of electron-microscopy techniques) and the project is developing a number of digital enhancement techniques (e.g. D-Stretch) to assist in the analysis of superimpositioning.

Results of the dating project will be announced in the upcoming SAA conference in Memphis, USA (18-22 April 2012) while pigment analysis results will be discussed at the IFRAO conference in Bolivia in late June 2012.

Back to top

Rock Art of the Western Desert and Great Basin

Investigator

Jo McDonald was granted an ARC Future Fellowship in 2011 to study how people use rock art as they first move into arid zones and then how rock art can reveal changes in social organisation, responses to climate change and other major changes in human adaptation to living in deserts. Based largely on the recording work done for the Canning Stock Route Project McDonald will be analysing the rock art of the Western Desert, continuing the rock art dating programme and continuing to liaise with traditional owners about the significance and meaning of rock art and its interface with the Dreaming. While in the States, she is based at UC Berkeley. She is developing research collaborations with a number of Great Basin scholars to investigate patterning in the North American arid-zone rock art. She is also liaising with colleagues at the Berkley Centre of Digital Archaeology (CoDA) to develop partnerships in a digital heritage future.

Back to top