July 14, 2020


Aim for Excellence

Miniature rock art expands horizons

Image: The Yilbilinji rockshelter at Limmen National Park in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria area of...

Image: The Yilbilinji rockshelter at Limmen National Park in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria area of northern Australia.
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Credit history: Flinders University

Australian archaeologists have found out some of the most comprehensive examples of scarce, small-scale rock artwork in the variety of miniature stencils in a rockshelter customarily owned by the Marra persons.

The analysis, revealed in the journal Antiquity, examined the abnormal artwork discovered in the Yilbilinji rockshelter at Limmen National Park in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria area of northern Australia.

Historically owned by the Marra Aboriginal persons, the web page was documented by the analysis workforce in 2017 and right away stood out as exclusive.

“It can be the dimensions of the rock artwork that would make this web page abnormal and remarkably exclusive,” claims Flinders University archaeologist ARC Potential Fellow Dr Liam Brady.

“Generally, stencilled rock artwork close to the globe attributes total or daily life-sized proportions these kinds of as human and animal physique parts, objects (e.g. boomerangs), and even plant make any difference,” claims Affiliate Professor Brady.

“Nevertheless, lots of of the stencils at Yilbilinji are small or miniature-sized, and far too small to have been designed utilizing actual-daily life physique parts and total-dimensions objects.”

Only two other examples of this miniature stencilled variety of rock artwork, equally human figures, are known from any place in the planet: just one at Nielson’s Creek in New South Wales, and just one at Kisar Island in Indonesia.

The analysis workforce – archaeologists, anthropologists, Marra rangers, and Limmen National Park rangers – recorded a complete of 17 photographs of these miniature stencils during a 2017 field excursion.

The photographs depict a vast array of motifs together with, human figures, animals (crab, very long-necked turtles), kangaroo paws, wavy strains, boomerangs, and geometric designs.

The scientists set out to obtain out how these abnormal photographs were designed. One particular clue came from the simple fact most of the miniature stencils were designed with rounded and curved edges this means they were likely designed utilizing one thing that could be easily moulded and caught to the rock surface.

One more clue came from anthropological analysis in the area. Co-writer and anthropologist Dr John Bradley, from the Monash Indigenous Centre, has worked with Aboriginal persons in the review spot for a lot more than forty several years.

He remembers seeing beeswax employed by persons for a array of needs these kinds of as an adhesive for restoring spears and harpoons. He also noticed youngsters shaping beeswax into objects and animals these kinds of as cattle, horses and cowboys.

“Making use of these clues, the scientists made the decision to take a look at if beeswax could have been employed to make the miniature stencils,” he claims.

“Our experiments involving heating and shaping beeswax into human figures, animals, objects, and geometric designs, and then stencilling onto a rock slab confirmed beeswax was an great material for creating miniature stencils.”

“Whoever designed these miniature stencils – adults or youngsters – is open for discussion, as is their this means,” claims Matthew Flinders Fellow Professor Amanda Kearney.

“Nevertheless, what is critical right here is that this discovery adds a different dimension to the Australian and world wide rock artwork history,” she claims.

In simple fact, given that this discovery was designed, 3 more stencils have been found out in the spot – a human determine, an echidna and a freshwater turtle – which more highlights the archaeological opportunity at Limmen National Park.

Glenn Durie, Supervisor of Aboriginal Partnerships, Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife, claims the analysis with Marra Classic House owners, archaeologists, and park rangers signifies this discovery could be amongst the very first of lots of a lot more in the spot.


The posting, ‘A scarce miniature and small-scale stencil assemblage from the Gulf of Carpentaria: replication and this means in Australian rock art’ (Might 2020) by Liam M Brady, John J Bradley (Monash University), Amanda Kearney and Daryl Wesley has been revealed in Antiquity (Cambridge) Vol ninety four, No 375 June 2020 DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2020.forty eight.

This analysis is funded by the Australian Investigate Council

(DP170101083, DE170101447, FT180100038).

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