Robert G Gunn

Robert G Gunn
Independent consultant

PhD

About

72
Publications
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Publications

Publications (72)
Article
Full-text available
Patterns of superposition in rock art are often used to systematically construct style sequences. However, once on the rock, images can affect subsequent engagements with the art, the rock surface, the site, and its surrounding landscape, and this recursiveness can be studied through the superimpositions (significantly overlaid markings) on a rock...
Preprint
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Western Arnhem Land in northern Australia has the rare distinction, both at national and global scales, of containing a vast landscape of many thousands of rockshelters richly decorated with art, some of which was probably made tens of thousands of years ago, others as recently as a few decades ago. Yet the challenge remains as to how to date this...
Preprint
Full-text available
In 2011, we began researching the subsurface archaeology, geomorphology and rock art ofDalakngalarr 1, a moderately sized rock shelter on top of the central-western Arnhem Landplateau in Jawoyn Country. Here, four lines of evidence give relative or absolute ages for rockart:1. Archaeological excavations adjacent to a boulder that contains a paintin...
Preprint
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IntroductionThe southern Arnhem Land plateau contains a rich mosaic of thousands of rock art sites located in outcrops of Proterozoic Marlgowa Sandstone of the Kombolgie formation (Carson et al. 1999) (Figure 11.1). Within this region in Jawoyn Country can be found Nawarla Gabarnmang, an impressive rockshelter exhibiting a gridded network of pillar...
Article
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Archaeologists usually see, and understand, rock shelters as taphonomically active, but pre-existing, physical structures onto which people undertake a variety of actions including rock art. Our aim in this paper is not only to document the changes undergone by rock shelters but also to identify traces of anthropic actions that have intentionally l...
Article
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While the range of factors affecting pigment preservation in rockshelters has been the subject of study, the degree to which the physical form (shape) of individual rockshelters affects the preservation of the rock art within remains largely unexplored. The Arnhem Land Plateau is well-known for its wealth of pigment rock art, some of which is repor...
Article
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The rock art of Western Australia's Kimberley region has been the subject of special attention by archaeologists and rock art enthusiasts since George Grey's publication of the first illustration of it. Since then, researchers have tried to date and classify the Kimberley's many rock art styles. To date, eight widespread and highly recognisable sty...
Article
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First documentation of petroglyphs (scratching, abrading, pecking, pounding) in rock shelters at Gariwewrd (Grampians National Park), Victoria, Australia
Article
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The ‘direct’ dating of rock art has proliferated since the development of accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon, uranium-series and optically stimulated luminescence dating, yet still, most rock art is not directly datable due to the mineral nature of the constituent pigments. Here we present another method: the recovery and dating by stratigra...
Article
Nawarla Gabarnmang is a major rock art site of northern Australia. Occupied by people for some 50,000 years, it contains an exceptional deposit of stone artefacts including one of the oldest ground-edge stone axes in the world (35,500 years) and an extensively decorated ceiling with close to 1 400 paintings in multiple panels and with numerous supe...
Chapter
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Understanding the rock art of a cave or rock shelter requires positioning the art in its landscape setting. This involves both spatial and temporal dimensions because a site's layout changes through time, necessitating an examination of site formation processes. In this chapter, the authors present a new approach-archaeomorphology-that unites archa...
Article
Full-text available
No comprehensive archaeological descriptions of individual rock art site complexes from western Arnhem Land have been published to date. Here the spatial patterns of seven small rock art site complexes in the Jawoyn Lands of the Arnhem Land Plateau, Northern Territory (Australia) are examined; these all contained a main rock art shelter with a disp...
Book
Full-text available
Understanding the rock art of a cave or rock shelter requires positioning the art in its landscape setting. This involves both spatial and temporal dimensions because a site’s layout changes through time, necessitating an examination of site formation processes. In this chapter, the authors present a new approach—archaeomorphology—that unites archa...
Article
Full-text available
The surface of the Arnhem Land Plateau, northern Australia, contains numerous rock outcrops of varying size and geomorphic complexity. Erosion of these isolated outcrops has led to the development of discrete clusters of rockshelters that have become foci for Aboriginal use (site complexes). The clusters stand as islands within an archaeologically...
Article
Identifying extinct fauna in rock art is a common but difficult exercise. Here we use geometric morphometric analysis of shape to examine the oft-cited painting from Arnhem Land attributed by Gunn et al. to the long-extinct species Genyornis newtoni. We compare the shape of key anatomical features in this painting to anatomical depictions of Genyor...
Article
Full-text available
In the late nineteenth century, art historian Giovanni Morelli attempted to formalise a logical approach in the attribution of Renaissance paintings. This 'method' was based on the identification of subtle cues unique to particular artists. While having many problems in reality, in theory the method is applicable to Aboriginal rock art and other ar...
Article
Full-text available
In the late nineteenth century, art historian Giovanni Morelli attempted to formalise a logical approach in the attribution of Renaissance paintings. This 'method' was based on the identification of subtle cues unique to particular artists. While having many problems in reality, in theory the method is applicable to Aboriginal rock art and other ar...
Article
Full-text available
The so-called “Genyornis” rockshelter site on the Arnhem Land plateau, northern Australia, features a painting of a large bird that some archaeologists and paleontologists have suggested could be an image of the megafaunal species Genyornis newtoni, until recently widely thought to have become extinct some 45,000 years ago. However, a recent archae...
Article
Full-text available
This paper presents a formal analysis of the two known rock art sites in the Esperance region of Western Australia - Marbaleerup and Boyatup - and compares and contrasts them with the characteristics of 43 other known rock art sites in the Noongar lands. The Esperance region lies at the eastern edge of the traditional lands of the Noongar people, a...
Chapter
Full-text available
Western Arnhem Land in northern Australia has the rare distinction, both at national and global scales, of containing a vast landscape of many thousands of rockshelters richly decorated with art, some of which was probably made tens of thousands of years ago, others as recently as a few decades ago. Yet the challenge remains as to how to date this...
Book
Full-text available
The archaeomorphological study of Nawarla Gabarnmang in Australia's Northern Territory challenges us to think in new ways about how Aboriginal people interacted with their surroundings; here a site of everyday engagement was a place of construction that retains material traces of past engagements. At Nawarla Garbarnmang, we show through archaeomorp...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter discusses the contribution of ethnography to the study of Australian rock art. With more than 100 years of ethnographic enquiry into rock art from across the country, valuable insights into the meaning, motives, function, and symbolism of images have been identified. However, with this information comes challenges with its use (and abu...
Chapter
Full-text available
The Harris Matrix was developed in the 1970s to correctly interpret the sequence of data derived from archaeological excavations. When layers of pigment are applied over surfaces to make rock art, they also form sequences through time. Understanding motif superimpositions is a key to understanding sequential changes in rock art repertoires. The use...
Article
Full-text available
Caves and rockshelters are a key component of the archaeological record but are often regarded as natural places conveniently exploited by human communities. Archaeomorphological study shows however that they are not inert spaces but have frequently been modified by human action, sometimes in ways that imply a strong symbolic significance. In this...
Chapter
This paper presents new results of on-wall and excavated pigments from two major rock art sites in northern Australia: the ‘Genyornis’ site, and Nawarla Gabarnmang. The former site has been argued in the archaeological literature to feature a painting of Genyornis newtoni, thought to have become extinct across Australia 40-45,000 years ago. The sec...
Article
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Appréhender la part des processus naturels et de l'Homme dans la facture et la construction des sites d'art rupestre est depuis longtemps au cœur des travaux menés en archéologie. L'accent est mis ici sur la géomorphologie qui, par l'analyse de l'évolution physique des sites archéologiques, interroge le rôle respectif des processus morphogéniques e...
Article
Full-text available
Nawarla Gabarnmang is a major rock art and occupation rocksheiter in the Jawoyn lands of western Arnhem Land. On the basis of (1) dating of beeswax underlying pigment art, (2) the presence of a probable contact motif, and (3) traditional owner comments, it appears that the most clearly visible art in the rocksheiter was produced within an archaeolo...
Article
Full-text available
Undertaken as part of the Jawoyn Rock Art and Heritage Project, a form of stone arrangement not previously documented in Arnhem Land was found to occur at many recorded site complexes. These 'standing stones', or plaques, are flat slabs of unmodified sandstone, typically measuring ca 60 x 40 cm, that have been deliberately erected in a near-vertica...
Article
Full-text available
A key challenge in rock art research has involved developing methods to assist in recovering and documenting deteriorated and superimposed pigment art. The " digital revolution " has played a crucial role in this endeavor as it has brought many new and innovative ways of seeing and recording rock art. In this chapter, we examine the methods and res...
Article
Full-text available
A canine burial was recently located on the Arnhem Land Plateau. This is the second such feature recorded for the region. Radiocarbon dating of a vertebrae from the canine provided an age of 88 +/- 25 BP (Wk-31813). Both canine burials known from the area occur in similar archaeological contexts and are of similar age, suggesting there may be a cul...
Article
Full-text available
Recent excavations at Nawarla Gabarnmang in Jawoyn country, southwest Arnhem Land have produced a long sequence of AMS radiocarbon determinations on individual pieces of charcoal reliably associated with stone artifacts dating back to 45,180±910 cal BP. It represents one of the earliest radiocarbon-dated archaeological sites in Australia. Here we r...
Article
Full-text available
A large painting of an unusual emu-like bird was recorded in western Arnhem Land. The painting and its setting are described in relation to reported megafauna depictions in the region. Concordance with palaeontological evidence suggests that the painting was of Genyornis newtoni, one of the giant 'thunder birds' which some palaeontologists claim be...
Article
Full-text available
The identification of patterns and trends in rock art can offer substance to the interpretation of inter-group relationships beyond that provided by other areas of archaeology and anthropology. The rock art within the lands of the Arrernte and Luritja people of central Australia has been subject to intensive study over the past twenty years and a b...
Article
Full-text available
The observation of rock art shelters prior to and following bushfires and Fuel Reduction Burning has shown that generally there is little immediate deleterious impact on rock art and rock shelters. However, as with coal mining subsidence, when the impact is adverse it can be dramatic and catastrophic. It was apparent that there is accelerated soil...
Article
Full-text available
Recent excavations at Nawarla Gabarnmang in Jawoyn country, southwest Arnhem Land have produced a long sequence of AMS radiocarbon determinations on individual pieces of charcoal reliably associated with stone artefacts dating back to 45,180±910 cal BP. It represents one of the earliest radiocarbon-dated archaeological sites in Australia. Here we r...
Article
Full-text available
The skeleton of a mature dingo was found wrapped in paperbark and cached on a ledge in a rockshelter on the Arnhem Land plateau. Such burials have not previously been recorded from the region and are considered uncommon by contemporary Jawoyn elders. Radiocarbon dating of a vertebra from the skeleton provided a conventional radiocarbon age of 77±35...