Histories of Australian Rock Art Research

Histories of Australian Rock Art Research

Edited by: Paul S.C. Taçon orcid, Sally K. May orcid, Ursula K. Frederick orcid, Jo McDonald orcid

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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.


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
Sep 2022
Terra Australis 55
ANU Press
Terra Australis
Arts & Humanities: Archaeology, History

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Histories of Australian Rock Art Research »

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  1. Introduction (PDF, 0.9MB)Paul S.C. Taçon, Sally K. May, Ursula K. Frederick, Jo McDonald and Mary Blyth [doi]

Part A: Early pioneers and perspectives

  1. Style and substance: McCarthy versus Mountford and the emergence of an archaeology of rock art 1948–1960 (PDF, 2.1MB)Anne Clarke, Sally K. May, Ursula K. Frederick and Iain G. Johnston [doi]
  2. Shades of red: Peter Worsley’s rock art research on Groote Eylandt (PDF, 1.5MB)Ursula K. Frederick and Anne Clarke [doi]
  3. The Sydney School and the genesis of contemporary Australian rock art research (PDF, 2.2MB)Jo McDonald [doi]
  4. Women in Australian rock art research: The legacies of Andrée Rosenfeld and Patricia Vinnicombe (PDF, 1.2MB)Sven Ouzman and Claire Smith [doi]
  5. Australian artists as rock art researchers: Percy Leason’s theories on cave art (PDF, 2.7MB)Susan Lowish [doi]

Part B: South-east coast to the far north-west

  1. A short story of Gariwerd: The rock art management chapter (PDF, 2.4MB)Robert G. Gunn and Jake R. Goodes [doi]
  2. ‘Like broad arrows’: A history of encounters with Central Australian rock art (PDF, 3.3MB)June Ross and Mike A. Smith [doi]
  3. Without them – what then? People, petroglyphs and Murujuga (PDF, 3.2MB)Ken Mulvaney [doi]
  4. Histories of rock art research in Western Australia’s Kimberley, 1838–2000 (PDF, 2.6MB)Joakim Goldhahn, Sam Harper, Peter Veth and Sven Ouzman [doi]

Part C: North, north-east and beyond

  1. The history of Arnhem Land rock art research: A multicultural, multilingual and multidisciplinary pursuit (PDF, 3.8MB)Paul S.C. Taçon [doi]
  2. Preserving the rock art of Kakadu: Formative conservation trials during the 1980s (PDF, 1.5MB)Melissa Marshall, Jeffrey Lee, Gabrielle O’Loughlin, Kadeem May and Jillian Huntley [doi]
  3. Aboriginal rock art of the Laura valleys: One landscape, many Stories (PDF, 2.1MB)Noelene Cole [doi]
  4. Australia-affiliated rock art research in Southeast Asia and Micronesia (PDF, 1.4MB)Andrea Jalandoni [doi]

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