Jo McDonald

Professor Jo McDonald FAHA MAACAI is the Director of the Centre for Rock Art Research + Management at the University of Western Australia. She has developed numerous collaborative research partnerships focused around rock art with Aboriginal communities in the Western Desert and Pilbara that link custodians and their ranger groups, mythological narratives and rock art.


Histories of Australian Rock Art Research »

Publication date: September 2022
Australia has one of the largest inventories of rock art in the world with pictographs and petroglyphs found almost anywhere that has suitable rock surfaces – in rock shelters and caves, on boulders and rock platforms. First Nations people have been marking these places with figurative imagery, abstract designs, stencils and prints for tens of thousands of years, often engaging with earlier rock markings. The art reflects and expresses changing experiences within landscapes over time, spirituality, history, law and lore, as well as relationships between individuals and groups of people, plants, animals, land and Ancestral Beings that are said to have created the world, including some rock art. Since the late 1700s, people arriving in Australia have been fascinated with the rock art they encountered, with detailed studies commencing in the late 1800s. Through the 1900s an impressive body of research on Australian rock art was undertaken, with dedicated academic study using archaeological methods employed since the late 1940s. Since then, Australian rock art has been researched from various perspectives, including that of Traditional Owners, custodians and other community members. Through the 1900s, there was also growing interest in Australian rock art from researchers across the globe, leading many to visit or migrate to Australia to undertake rock art research. In this volume, the varied histories of Australian rock art research from different parts of the country are explored not only in terms of key researchers, developments and changes over time, but also the crucial role of First Nations people themselves in investigations of this key component of their living heritage.

Dreamtime Superhighway »

Sydney Basin Rock Art and Prehistoric Information Exchange

Authored by: Jo McDonald
Publication date: August 2008
Dreamtime Superhighway presents a thorough and original contextualization of the rock art and archaeology of the Sydney Basin. By combining excavation results with rock art analysis it demonstrates that a true archaeology of rock art can provide insights into rock art image-making in people’s social and cultural lives. Based on a PhD dissertation, this monograph is a significantly revised and updated study which draws forcefully on rich and new data from extensive recent research—much of it by McDonald herself. McDonald has developed a model that suggests that visual culture—such as rock artmaking and its images and forms—could be understood as a system of communication, as a way of signaling group identifying behaviour. For the archaeologist of art, the anthropologist of art and those of us who try to think about past worlds… this monograph is a must read. Margaret W. Conkey University of California, Berkeley