Figure 1 - uploaded by Peter Veth
Content may be subject to copyright.
Boundaries of the Western Desert and the circumcision/subincision lines.

Boundaries of the Western Desert and the circumcision/subincision lines.

Source publication
Article
Full-text available
In the early years of the twentieth century, anthropologists recorded evidence for the movement of the circumcision rite into the non-circumcising southwest region of Western Australia. Archaeological and linguistic evidence from central Australia suggests that this may have been a continuation of an expansion of the boundaries of the Western Deser...

Contexts in source publication

Context 1
... of the major and most widely recognised 'boundaries' in Aboriginal Australia is the so-called 'circumcision/subincision line', demarcating the division between major ritual and cultural traditions, namely the inland Western Desert culture bloc versus a number of other culture areas ranged along the coastal fringe ( Figure 1). The presence of this border on Tindale's (1974) and other maps has lent it an air of immutability. ...
Context 2
... upon the extent of the social and economic networks of the persons being recruited, the geographic spread of circumcision could potentially incorporate hundreds of square kilometres of territory within a single generation. What is obvious is that the 'circumcision/subincision line' shown on Tindale's (1974) map (see Figure 1), is in fact a highly conservative depiction of the frontier, probably to what he perceived as a 'pre-contact' situation and in line with his notions of ecological boundedness. It must also be recalled that this outflow was not limited to the southwest and central regions, but was a far wider phenomenon right along the boundaries of the Western Desert cultural bloc. ...

Citations

... Evidence of the widespread diffusion of ceremony and interaction-often across different language groups-is a relatively commonly recorded phenomenon and is perhaps best illustrated in the spread of the circumcision rite into southwest Western Australia and the Molonga ceremony which spread over 1600 km in just 25 years (Mulvaney 1976). Chase and Sutton (1987) state that coastal peoples formed a chain of local groups for a distance of 200 km along the east coast of Cape York Peninsula, representing five different dialect areas, who classified themselves as 'sand-beach people' (see Gibbs and Veth 2002;Hiscock 2013;Keen 1994;Mulvaney 1976;Stanner 1963 for more examples). Chase and Sutton (1987) state that people of the Nesbit Region of Cape York Peninsula had a shared perception as members of a broad beach-side culture which indicated a recognition of common patterns of localised initiation ceremonies. ...
Article
The Mine Island stone arrangement complex is a large ceremonial complex on the central Queensland coast. The arrangements are in excess of 2 km of looping and U-shaped aligned stones. A series of middens, directly adjacent to the stone arrangements, was recently excavated, providing potential chronological insights into the construction and ceremonial use of the stone arrangement. We posit that these stone arrangements represent a shared spirituality linking coastal peoples for over 300 km of coastline, the inception of which was possibly linked to a range of broader changes impacting coastal hunter-gatherers on the central Queensland coast after around 500 BP.
... This predictive model takes into account both residential mobility of smaller groups and aggregation cycles. Aggregation sites would have been important centres for ritual production, in addition to facilitating the rapid exchange of languages, material goods and genes (Gibbs and Veth, 2002). Aggregation locales (after Conkey, 1980;and see McDonald and Veth, 2012) optimally describe art sites/provinces where groups from many disparate social groupings coalesce. ...
Article
The Dampier Archipelago (properly known as Murujuga) is a rich rock art province in north-western Australia which documents an arid-maritime cultural landscape. But this Archipelago of 42 islands has only existed since the mid-Holocene. When people started to engrave art here, the granophyre bedrock was part of an inland range, more than 160 km from the coast. The Pilbara archaeological record demonstrates human responses through over forty thousand years of environmental change. This paper discusses how rock art across Murujuga can give insights to changing dynamics of people in place as well as depicting major environmental change. A predictive model is developed to assist in understanding the social changes which have been wrought by sea-level rise and consequential environmental changes.
... Aggregation sites served as important centers of ritual production, as well as facilitating the rapid exchange of social capital: language, material culture, and genes (Gibbs and Veth 2002). Polly Wiessner (1989 Wiessner ( , 1990 ) defined this as an ideal situation for the demonstration of different stylistic messages, with the stimulus being varying types of identity emphasis. ...
Article
Human depictions-anthropomorphs-are a prevalent theme in most Australian rock art provinces. They appear in figurative assemblages with varying amounts of detail and decoration. They are also present in older engraved assemblages, where they are represented mostly by tracks and other iconography. Pictures of women, however, vary markedly in the ways they are depicted and in their centrality to rock art assemblages. This chapter explores the question: who created rock art in Australia? It also asks: what do depictions of women in rock art and the social context of production tell us about the role that rock art may have played in prehistoric information exchange and social messaging?
... Aggregation sites served as important centers of ritual production, as well as facilitating the rapid exchange of social capital: language, material culture, and genes (Gibbs and Veth 2002 ). Polly Wiessner (1989Wiessner ( , 1990 defi ned this as an ideal situation for the demonstration of different stylistic messages, with the stimulus being varying types of identity emphasis. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Human depictions – anthropomorphs – are a prevalent theme in most Australian rock art provinces. They appear in fi gurative assemblages with varying amounts of detail and decoration. They are also present in older engraved assemblages, where they are repre-sented mostly by tracks and other iconography. Pictures of women, however, vary mark-edly in the ways they are depicted and in their centrality to rock art assemblages. This chapter explores the question: who created rock art in Australia? It also asks: what do depictions of women in rock art and the social context of production tell us about the role that rock art may have played in prehistoric information exchange and social messaging? What do pictures of people in rock art assemblages tell us about the cultures and the artists that produced them? And if anthropomorphs refl ect social information about their creators, what can we tell about social organization when we look at gendered anthropomorphs? In most Australian regional styles, there is a strong sense that the rock art is imbued with people in their social, geographic, and totemic landscapes. People are seen on a canvas which represents their daily realities: we see the animals that are important to them, we see people hunting prey. This natural landscape, which can be interpreted as having both economic and ritual signifi cance, includes human subjects in situations which provide insights into the cultures that produced them. Humans occur in
... The data presented here for the Hamersley Plateau are currently too weak to convincingly engage with relevant themes from neighbouring regions. These themes include the effect of increased climate variability, more open vegetation and decreased rainfall after about 3500 BP (Schulmeister and Lees 1995), links between rock art and the manifestation of group identities (Davidson 1997) and territorial structures similar to ethnographically observed socio-linguistic units (Taçon 1993), the possible adoption of Western Desert section systems, especially after 1600 BP according to linguistic methods (McConvell 1985, 1996, 1997), the westward spread of circumcision rituals (Dench 2001; Gibbs and Veth 2003) and the likelihood that the timing and character of archaeological changes on the Hamersley Plateau cultural are similar to changes throughout the Australian arid zone (Smith 1988; Veth 1993). Only after considerably more data are available can these problems be meaningfully addressed. ...
Article
Data collected from the Hamersley Plateau over the last four decades are examined for patterns in the archaeological record. Data relating to the timing of the archaeological appearance of backed artefacts, seed-grinding technology and rock art are currently too few to indicate major cultural changes with certainty. Increases in numbers of radiocarbon dates from archaeological sites on the Hamersley Plateau are evident in the late Holocene. This can be interpreted as a pattern of cultural change or natural decay in datable material. I conclude that taphonomic bias is the most important variable in the distribution of the radiocarbon date sample from the Hamersley Plateau. That said, further accumulation of dates and data may show archaeological changes in the Hamersley Plateau that represent local expressions of broader trends in the Australian semi-arid and arid zones.
... Holocene changes in technology are thought to be concurrent with the development of particular cultural systems (Gibbs and Veth 2002;McBryde 1992). Aspects of this cultural organisation include ritual gatherings and exchange systems linked to development of the particular totemic geographic and Dreaming kinship-based structures. ...
Article
Full-text available
Examples of striped marsupial depictions have been reported from both the coastal and inland Pilbara. Many are regarded as images of the thylacine, an animal that disappeared from mainland Australia some 3000–4000 years ago. Also observable in the rock art is the ‘fat-tailed macropod’, a distinctive rendition of a marsupial with an extremely thick tail. Recent investigations in the Tom Price area and on the Burrup Peninsula confirm that both motifs pertain to the more ancient rock art corpus. Restricted artistic variation within the depiction of these two species confirms the trend to naturalistic style within animal subjects and suggests a extensive, culturally cohesive, artistic tradition across the Pilbara during the Pleistocene and early Holocene. At two specific locations, aspects of the rock art may be explained in terms of contemporary oral traditions and cultural practices, affording one way of placing temporal parameters on these early graphic traditions. I argue that the rock art is not just representational; that it communicates mythological narratives and behavioural traits, which have a deep antiquity to the Dreaming of more than just a few thousand years.
... Its proximity to the Western Desert may explain why Desert motifs were painted in the cave. They may reflect the westward expansion of Desert customs that Cibbs and Veth (2002) said continued into the early twentieth century. Noongar boys infnt child adscnt adult men 315°S erpent's Glen Figure 11 Location of the decorated rockshelters in the southern half of Western Australia referred to in the text. ...
... Discourse in Australian archaeology has long focused on the evolution of " complexity " in Aboriginal Australia (Lourandos 1985aLourandos , 1997 Lourandos and Ross 1994 ). Archaeological investigations have looked to a range of evidence to support an interpretation of Holocene Aboriginal society as " complex, " including population growth (Beaton 1985Beaton , 1990 Ross 1985 Ross , 1989 Webb 1984; Williams 1985 ); economic and social intensification (Barker 1989Barker , 1991Barker , 2004 David 1991 David , 1994 Lourandos 1980 Lourandos , 1983 Lourandos , 1985a Lourandos , 1985b Lourandos , 1988 Lourandos , 1997 Ross 1981 Ross , 1984 Ross , 1985 ); the development of resource control mechanisms (Atchison , Head, and Fullagar 2005; Balme and Beck 1996; Beaton 1982; Bowman 1998 Bowman , 2000 Godwin 1988; Hallam 1975; Lourandos 1980 Lourandos , 1985a Meehan 1982; Ross and Quandamooka 1996a, 1996b; Williams 1979); and the evolution of political alliance networks in trade (Jones and White 1988; McBryde 1978b McBryde , 1984a McBryde , 1984b McKenzie 1983; Ross, Anderson, and Campbell 2003), artistic development (David 1994; David and Chant 1995; David and Cole 1990; David et al. 1994; McDonald 1994; Morwood 1987 Morwood , 1992 Morwood , 2002), and ceremony (Gibbs and Veth 2002). Evidence with regard to conditions that facilitated the development of social change, including " enduring hierarchy , " in Australian Aboriginal society occurs in the humid north-west of Western Australia (Veitch 1996Veitch , 1999), northern Australia (Taçon 1993), and northern Queensland (David 1991David , 1994 Greer 1999; Lamb 1993 Lamb , 1996 ); coastal central Queensland (Barker 1989Barker , 1991Barker , 1999Barker , 2004 Border 1999; Jacobson, Lamb, and Giru Dala Council 1999; Brown et al. 1988); arid western Queensland (Williams 1988b; Simmons 2002) and central Australia (Ross, Donnelly, and Wasson 1992; Smith 1993; Veth 1987 Veth , 1989 Veth , 1993); warm-temperate south-eastern Quensland (Barker and Ross 2003; McNiven 1994 McNiven , 1999 Ross 2001; Ross and Coghill 2000; Ross and Duffy 2000; Ross and Pickering 2002; Ulm 1995; Walters 1989 Walters , 1992), northern New South Wales (Bowder 1981; Godwin 1999; McBryde 1978a McBryde , 1982), and south-eastern New South Wales (Hughes and Lampert 1982; Lampert and Hughes 1974; McDonald 1992 McDonald , 1994 Sullivan 1982 Sullivan , 1987); semi-arid north-western Victoria (Ross 1981Ross , 1984Ross , 1985Ross , 1988 ; and cool-temperate south-western Victoria (Clarke 1994; Lourandos 1980 Lourandos , 1983 Lourandos , 1985a Lourandos , 1985b Lourandos , 1988 Lourandos , 1997 Williams 1984 Williams , 1987 Williams , 1988a), the Murray River valley (Webb 1984), and south-western Western Australia (Dortch 1999; Dortch, Kendrick, and Morse 1984; Hallam 1987; Smith 1999). ...
... Although dead storage of resources rarely occurred, technological achievements that arose during the late Holocene, coupled with totemically defined rights and responsibilities with regard to resource management (Bagshaw 1998; Cook and Armstrong 1998; Memmott and Trigger 1998; Palmer 1998), ensured that resources were procured (and production often intensified) and the produce was " stored " for later use. Evidence for occupational specialization included specialist dugong hunters in the Gulf of Carpentaria (Bradley 1997Bradley , 1998) and Moreton Bay (Ross and Pickering 2002), expert ceremonial practitioners for initiation and other ceremonies (Gibbs and Veth 2002) and specialists in accessing quarry sites (Gould and Saggers 1985; Jones and White 1988; McBryde 1978a McBryde , 1978b McBryde , 1984a McBryde , 1984b McKenzie 1983; Ross, Anderson, and Campbell 2003). Quarry specialization was often the catalyst for the formation of alliance networks via trade (McBryde 1984a; Ross, Anderson, and Campbell 2003). ...
Article
Full-text available
Conditions in Late Holocene Australia, including variable and unpredictable environments, reliance on a wide array of food resources, relatively low population densities, some degree of mobility, and shared access to land and waters, contrast sharply with those posited as conditions for the emergence of complexity among hunter-gatherer societies such as those of the Northwest Coast of North America. Nevertheless, Aboriginal societies varied considerably in a number of ways, including resources of male power. In particular, the article contrasts features of "reproductive power" in the high- and very-high-polygyny societies of the north coast of Australia with those of other regions of the continent. High to very high polygyny developed in areas with relatively high population density and certain forms of kin classification and engendered considerable inequality among patrigroups, but various social and environmental conditions imposed constraints on the development of enduring hierarchy.
Chapter
Style as Social StrategyWestern Desert Aggregation and Dispersion PatternsWhy did Western Desert People Produce Rock Art?Archaeological Test ImplicationsConclusions References
Article
Full-text available
In 2007 the Dampier Archipelago petroglyph province was included on the National Heritage List. This paper outlines the process of determining the province's scientific values. We briefly describe our findings, which are based on all existing site data lodged with regulatory authorities. We synthesize published and unpublished systematic survey and rock art recording data collected over three decades for research and environmental impact assessment. Based on this synthesis we provide the first thorough analysis and contextualisation of petroglyph sites across the Archipelago. We compare this art province with other art style provinces in the Pilbara.