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Australian rock art of the Pleistocene

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The recognition of the occurrence of Pleistocene rock art in Australia is reviewed in the context of historical developments as well as recent observations. The frequency of misinterpretations of reported data and their effects are discussed, with particular emphasis on the traditional heartland of the 'Panaramitee style', in NE South Australia. Despite the continuing paucity of credibly dated examples, it is apparent that most rock art of the earliest phase has survived as petroglyphs rather than pictograms, which is consistent with the evidence from the rest of the world. An attempt is made to characterise Australian petroglyphs that are probably of the Pleistocene, and to estimate their potential number. In comparing them with the Pleistocene rock art of other continents their close similarity with traditions elsewhere belonging to Mode 3 lithic industries is noted.
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89
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
KEYWORDS: Pleistocene – Petroglyph – Age estimation – Lithology – Australia
AUSTRALIAN ROCK ART OF THE PLEISTOCENE
Robert G. Bednarik
Abstract. The recognition of the occurrence of Pleistocene rock art in Australia is reviewed
in the context of historical developments as well as recent observations. The frequency of

        

            

    
them with the Pleistocene rock art of other continents their close similarity with traditions
elsewhere belonging to Mode 3 lithic industries is noted.
Introduction
A few researchers have long held the view that some

amounts in fact to the earliest intimation of a human
presence in the continent before the Holocene. It is

outside of Europe. Archaeological evidence for this idea





art occurring in Australia is almost as old as the general
acceptance of Pleistocene art anywhere
else (Cartailhac 1902). It was presented
  
South Australian geologist and medical
  

and explorer. This polymath pioneered
rock art research by investigating a series
of rock art sites in various parts of his

his participation with the 1903 South
Australian Government North-West

Allen Wells (Basedow [Welch] 2008). He
commenced publishing anthropological
papers in 1904. In commenting on the
petroglyphs of the Yunta Springs (Olary
district) and Red Gorge (Flinders Ranges)
   
places where it would now be almost impossible
  
mass must have occurred since the designs were
made (Basedow 1914). He also noted the ubiquity

being familiar with the fossil megafauna found at
 
animal track petroglyph could represent the extinct
diprotodon.
      
Aborigines were assumed to be relatively recent arri-
   
century — although a few other investigators reported

chaeologist and entomologist Norman
Tindale (1900–1993) later also visited
Yunta Springs and speculated that ima-

     
megafauna. He considered a series of

of Genyornis
 
229) suggested that large macropod


of Procoptodon. Charles P. Mountford
    

maze petroglyph at the Panaramitee


Figure 1. Herbert Basedow,
pioneer of Australian rock
art research.
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
90
   Crocodilus porosus 
no such species has existed in southern Australia for
millions of years. Ronald Berndt (1987) secured a very
detailed indigenous interpretation of the complex
 
which the image depicts a yarida

representing the spirit body of a human being as well

also reported what they perceived to be depictions

North and Yunta Springs respectively. On that basis
alone they proposed that these images were created
at a time when the ‘sea must have been closer to the



subsequently withdrawn by them (Mountford and

Most Australian megafauna had disappeared by
around 20 
of such extinct species or their tracks would have to
       


     

proposition that track sizes are intended to be realistic.


reading is known to fail most of the time (Macintosh

more claims of imagery supposedly of Pleistocene
animal species in recent decades. Among them are the
suggestions of the depiction of extinct megafauna by

Chaloupka in Arnhem Land (Murray and Chaloupka
   
Willing (2009) for the Kimberley.
While it is not possible to conclusively exclude
the possibility that Pleistocene Australians depicted


       
time most megafauna still existed. The only extinct


 
been reported from the Pilbara and Arnhem Land
       
these images are of very naturalistic appearance and
seem to show a good number of presumed diagnostic
       
Western Australia at least until 3300 years ago (in
     
       
beyond that. Its extinction on the Australian mainland


thylacine populations could have existed well into the
late Holocene. For instance the level of repatination
of the many supposed thylacine depictions in the
Dampier Archipelago places them well within the last
three or four millennia. Geological observations are
far more relevant to the question of Pleistocene rock
  
initial observations concerning geological processes

more pertinent than the subsequent contemplations of
motif interpretations.
The proposition of a Pleistocene age of the cave art in


     
although here the circumstantial archaeological evi-
dence presented was fairly comprehensive. Since no
rock art covered by Pleistocene sediment was reported

and no direct dating method was applied to rock art
anywhere in the world until that same time (Bednarik
 

  
and excessive claims appeared like mushrooms
   
        
the Pleistocene age of Spanish and French rock
       
     
Figure 2. Petroglyph depicting a yarida object,
Panaramitee North site, the type-site of the
‘Panaramitee style’ (aer Mountford 1929).
Figure 3. Presumed depiction of a pair of thylacines, Tom
Price Site 1, Western Australia, re-discovered and
recorded in 1968.
91
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
evidence in its favour became simply

  
zoomorph in south-western Europe to the
Upper Palaeolithic period particularly
equine and bovine images (Bednarik
2009a). Many of these recent petroglyphs
did in fact not even exist when Cartailhac
(Fig. 4) wrote his famous mea culpa (Bed-
narik 2009b). Australia experienced a
similar development: after strenuous
    
eventual acceptance led to many excessive
claims. It is one of several purposes of this
paper to analyse these together with the
    
to establish a more reliable knowledge
base for Pleistocene rock art in Australia.
Fallacies about rock art age
Most of the published errors about the age of
Australian rock art seem to be related to simple
misapprehensions concerning geochemical and geo-
morphological issues. Perhaps most consequential
among these is the question of organics found in
rock substrates at or near rock art. The ubiquity of

accretionary deposits and even in the putatively un-
altered rock fabric was demonstrated at petroglyph
sites in the 1970s (Bednarik 1979). This work also
showed that the exponential increase in organic


logical regimes is an open system. This means that
it remains open to contamination by many factors
    

carbon isotopes. Yet in many subsequent endeavours
        
       
 


Nobbs and Dorn 1988).
Dorn sought to estimate petroglyph ages by ana-
lysing rock varnish covering such rock art in the United


K) are compared with the supposedly more stable Ti
      
isotope samples for AMS analysis are obtained from
near the petroglyphs in question (the damage caused
by AMS sampling prevents sampling of the varnish on
the actual petroglyph). His work in the Olary district
       
     
       
       
        
     

the reliability of cation ratio analysis be-

     
and Dorn conceded that it ‘is an inferior
    



the Olary results on the same motifs (Fig.

    
eventually led to the retraction by Dorn
      



author had in 1987 sent him the 1979 paper in which
the openness of the carbon system in rock substrates
and the randomness of carbon presence had both been
demonstrated.
      



newspaper reported the view of a prominent Aus-
tralian archaeologist that ‘[w]e can’t date the [Dampier]
petroglyphs because there is nothing organic about



         



 
        
Figure 4.
Émile Cartailhac in 1872.
Figure 5. Rapidly eroding petroglyph panels at Karolta
1, a site where motifs sampled by Dorn were re-
sampled by Watchman within a few years, yielding
entirely dierent results.
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
92
(1990) reported from what they claimed was blood


no value to dating these motifs. The principal analyst
 
thoughtsabout these results and returned to Laurie
Creek for more detailed analytical work concerning
the ‘date’ of 20 320 + 3100 / -2300 years . He found
that the reported pigment layer was in fact naturally
precipitated iron oxide of a type frequently occurring
       
      
blood residue (Nelson 1993). Although Loy (1994)
continued to claim that mammalian IgG was present
         
Gillespie’s (1997) subsequent research (see also Tuross
       
       
      
natural organic compounds.
AMS analysis of Australian rock paintings was
introduced by McDonald et al. (1990) who applied it
to charcoal pigments at Gnatalia Creek and Waterfall
Cave in New South Wales. Two results from what is
        
      
          
The most likely explanation for these profoundly
       

which questions the integrity of all such carbon
isotope results. Alternative explanations for these

Other misunderstandings about the age of rock art
abound in the archaeological literature of Australia.
      

        



2002: 133). Yet Dragovich states unambiguously that
her samples were from rock that was not engraved (e.g.



cited above.

for the petroglyphs on a boulder he excavated in
       
stratigraphy (Morwood 1981: Fig. 7) shows that he
misread the section: the engraved boulder rests on

   

many petroglyphs of the Dampier Archipelago in
     
speculating on that basis that some motifs might
        
 
repatination curve secured from another part of the
Pilbara region (Bednarik 2009c).

rock art at Dampier was created by Lorblanchet


         
       
      
         
 
unexplained. Based on their degree of repatination




far again without presenting testable or credible data.
Unsuccessful endeavours to locate petroglyphs at
       
Figure 6. Map of Australian rock art sites mentioned in
the text. For inset map (Olary-Flinders Ranges), see
Figure 14.
1 – Murujuga/Dampier; 2 – Depuch Island; 3 – Pilbara;
4 – Spear Hill-Abydos complex; 5 – Tangalma/Carpenters
Gap Shelter; 6 – Kimberley complex; 7 – Jinmium;
8 – Ingaladdi; 9 – Laurie Creek; 10 – Kakadu complex;
11 – Puritjarra and Wanga East; 12 – Carbine Creek;
13 – Saxby Waterhole; 14 – Sandy Creek Shelter;
15 – Early Man Shelter, 16 – Walkunder Arch Cave
17 – Turtle Rock; 18 – Ken’s Cave; 19 – Orchestra Shell
Cave; 20 – Koonalda Cave; 21 – Pimba; 22 – Devon
Downs; 23 – Karlie-ngoinpool, Karake, Prung-kart,
Malangine and Koongine Caves; 24 – Paroong and
Yaranda Caves; 25 – Preminghana; 26 – Sundown Point;
27 – Trial Harbour; 28 – Judds Cavern; 29 – New Guinea
2 Cave; 30 – Gnatalia Creek and Waterfall Cave;
31 – Mt Yengo Rockshelter.
93
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
concentrations of rock art refer to present sea level
(Dortch 2002).
The supposedly oldest dated rock painting in

reported from Carpenters Gap Shelter 1 (the site’s

in the Kimberley region of north-western Australia.
In a deposit yielding occupation evidence of up to


that the coating is of anthropic origin. The shelter
  
is more likely to account for the deposition of iron

haematite does occur in abundance from the time
of earliest known occupation of Australia onwards
      

(Bednarik 1994a). Therefore it is entirely reasonable to

but in view of the severe taphonomic truncation of

is extremely improbable that anthropic ochre traces
would survive for tens of millennia in a frequently
water-logged sediment of Tangalma.
The perhaps most spectacularly mistaken rock

the far west of the Northern Territory (Fullagar et
  
cupules at that site was claimed to date from between
          
. These
sensational numbers exceed the accepted duration
   
        




interior of these fragments are not exposed to light


       
cupules are a Holocene phenomenon.
Less excessive was the suggestion that a red rock
painting in the nearby Kimberley region is in excess


is also unlikely to be correct. The motif in question
 
   
mid to late Holocene antiquity (range 1400–4000
years 


emerged (Bednarik 2001a: 133–4). Recent results by
R. Roberts from four sites of the Indian Lower and

    




of single grains was necessary [the sediments relate
          
    
quartz grains most suitable for OSL dating. Selection
of these grains should enable the most accurate and
precise De estimates to be obtained (Fenwick et al.
2008).
     

        
   


     
distribution of Australian rock art remains to be dis-
cussed in any systematic or comprehensive form. Apart

the principal encumbrance is the wide adoption of
Maynard’s (1979) tripartite model of Australian rock
art and its three consecutive ‘developmental phases’.
It has hampered the establishment of a credible chro-
nology as much as the archaeological confusions about
dating.
      

partly because of Maynard’s reliance on Edwards’

below. Site corpora were treated as representing
  
had often contributed to a given site’s repertoire.

        
  
      

is contradicted at countless sites across the continent

Figure 7. Petroglyph at Murujuga, Dampier
Archipelago, Western Australia, re-discovered in
1968, presumed to depict a thylacine.
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
94
       

whilst the ‘track and circle’ ‘style’ of the Panaramitee
can be the earliest or the most recent component of

        

rock art traditions around the world. For instance the
author has demonstrated in a blind test that eight
leading Australian specialists of the ‘Panaramitee
style’ cannot distinguish between it and the styles of
rock art sites in all other continents except Antarctica

     


        
        

proportion of perceived motif types. And the same

including large components of the two other ‘styles’.

       



    
it was still produced in the 20th century in the form

in contemporary canvas paintings. Her two other
‘styles’ could be any Holocene age and both have been
produced very recently. Maynard did not discount the
possibility that her three styles might to some degree
    
have emphasised their consecutiveness. Clegg (1992)
mistakenly claims:
There are accepted minimum dates [for the
Panaramitee style] of 13 
10 
ratio dates range from 31 700 to 1400 years ago
(Nobbs and Dorn 1988: 112–3).
Much the same is claimed in Clegg (1987: 241–2).
Yet Rosenfeld maintains on several occasions that her
dating at Early Man Shelter in Cape York Peninsula
refers to petroglyphs that do not belong to Maynard’s



       
regarded as erroneous. Clegg maintains as recently
as 2009 that the ‘Panaramitee’ petroglyphs of Sturts
Meadows near Broken Hill are ‘more than 10 000

Glacial Maximum and 20 000 years old (Clegg 2009).

  
 
entirely undated (Fig. 8). By comparison to other rock
       

poor lithological supports it is extremely unlikely that
any of the sites’ petroglyphs exceed mid-Holocene
antiquity (see below).
Another issue with the ‘Panaramitee style’ is its
      
  

painstaking study of the very core area of this
      
provides detailed motif counts from seventeen of the

       
 
          
     
  
 
        
non-iconic marks at Saxby Waterhole painting site.
Some of the petroglyph sites in the core area of the



  

       

  
hence the claim of consistent percentages is as much
a myth as the claim that the ‘style’ has been dated.


in Edwards (1971). Like most other archaeological

antiquity involved fallacies concerning lithological
  
     


In this region we know of no engraved surface from
Figure 8. Sturts Meadows ‘Panaramitee’ petroglyphs,
photographed in 1971.
95
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK

with a patination identical to that of
the original rock surface. This seems to
mean that in this area it took a minimum
      
natural color of the patina on the surface

Edwards misrendered this carefully

no engravings have re-weathered to
match the natural dark rock surface.
As some of them are associated with
       

surface patination to form in the region

He therefore inverted the statement to

     
by adding her own opinion to an already
erroneous statement:
Trendall’s view [relating to dolerite from Depuch
        
    
        

have not repatinated to match the surrounding rock
(Maynard 1979: 93).


weathering front formation and repatination. Weathering
is the chemical and physical decay of rocks exposed to


colour or composition from both the unaltered rock and


data of the depth of the weathering zone or ‘weathering


His estimate was not only correct in terms of order of




those of Trendall (see analyses of Trendall’s results in

basalt corresponds to 1.1 Ma in central Europe. Trendall
had stated that a weathering zone of 0.2 inches thickness
   
quotes Edwards’ citation of a statement originally by


  

but corrected himself [Mori 1974: 89–90] by retracting a

quasi scura quanto for ‘tanto scura quanto’.)
Maynard’s misunderstandings are in addition to
       
Bednarik 1979: 22 for correction) of interpreting
Trendall’s unambiguous and impeccably presented
data. These and other misapprehensions have resulted



weathering front) on repatination rates (see Bednarik
2007: 223).

     
    


      
referring to rock art dating have been misunderstood
     
information has been misquoted or systematically
misinterpreted. In the generic question of Pleistocene

misinformation is such that it may require decades of
patience to displace the structure of falsities and half-
truths that archaeology has created.
Reviewing the empirical evidence
     
cene) minimum datings of Australian petroglyphs
were secured at Devon Downs (lower Murray


      
     
excavated from layers radiocarbon dated to 4920 ± 100

 
Pleistocene antiquity of Australian rock art was secured


1971). Carbon isotope dates from excavated and
       


that the cave was not visited in the Holocene. The
Figure 9. Koonalda Cave nger utings, photographed in 1979.
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
96
huge entrance sinkhole renders human access

apparent Pleistocene torches and the con-
siderable ceiling breakdown succeeding
      
Pleistocene antiquity for the human activity
      
 900 ± 2000 
surface deposit in front of the Squeeze (a

places it on top of the huge rockfall deposit
that commences at the Gallus Site. It is


observable through small openings between
the bl 
ka probably applies to at least some of the

More secure is the minimum dating of a
series of petroglyphs at Early Man Shelter

     
sediment covering the lowest examples of
rock art at that site was in the order of 13
       
reasonably unambiguous Pleistocene
antiquity for Australian rock art. In the
        direct dating
(Bednarik 2001a: 124) results from rock art were acquired
      
From a sequence of three chronologically discrete traditions

carbon isotope estimates of the early Holocene were obtained

  
suggested in 1982 how conservative these estimates were: the
cave art tradition in question was suggested to be in excess of


arrangements resembling petroglyphs found on the other
         
         

ago. Tasmania became sundered from the mainland about 12


into the Pleistocene.
Direct dating via carbon isotope determinations from
laminated calcium carbonate precipitates has been secured
      


       

 


have occurred since it was executed (Fig. 12). Concerning the
         
  


only.
Watchman developed the direct dating of rock art by ex-

Figure 11. Petroglyphs (CLMs and isolated
cupules) on the ceiling of Malangine Cave in
1980, the subject of the rst direct dating of
rock art in the world, which yielded 14C and
Th/U results placing the petroglyphs in the
Late Pleistocene.
Figure 10. Early Man Shelter in 1991, with two Australian pioneers
of rock art research: Percy Trezise, who re-discovered the site, and
Andrée Rosenfeld, who minimum-dated some of the rock art to the
nal Pleistocene.
97
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
       

Although his initial determinations were of the
     (from Kakadu
      
       

mineral skins that showed no trace of pigment on the

on a flake yielded oxalate ‘dates’ (or minimum
dates) ranging up to about 24 
       
(Watchman 1993). The nano-stratigraphic sequence



      
 

     700 ±


about 10 ka to 28 ka.
      

dated stone surfaces suitable for local calibration (e.g.
    
older than about 200 years are not available. The
method of calibrating the development of micro-


of impacted surfaces of known age from the same
environmental zone (Bednarik 1992). When a cluster
of many dated inscriptions was found amidst one
       
   
became available for application to a selection
     
2002b). The two oldest dates of a randomly
chosen sample of seven in the Spear Hill/
Abydos area were about 20 ka and 27 ka
     
clear from the relative weathering state
     
    
bearing numerous cupules of clearly greater
     
been reported by many in Australia (and
elsewhere): that the earliest surviving forms
of rock art seem to be dominated by this

Although the existence of Pleistocene


to facilitate its cognisance it is requisite to
explore its formal characteristics. This is also
essential for the creation of a credible formal
     
     
more capricious claims similar to those
listed in the previous chapter are bound to appear in

 
 terra rma    
must be to counter the ahistorical design of Maynard’s
     
 

is at once evident that they relate exclusively to South
Australian sites. In fact nearly all such references
address the general region between the Flinders
      

The Olary – Flinders Ranges region
     
        

Figure 12. Fossilised nger utings in Yaranda Cave,
which predate megafaunal scratch marks, tentatively
aributed to Thylacoleo; photographed in 1993.
Figure 13. Traditional custodian Monty Hale requested that the age
of the curvilinear petroglyphs he is seated next to be estimated by
the author. The rock art, at Woodstock site 65B, Western Australia,
is between 16 000 and 26 500 years old. Older rock art occurs a few
metres from it.
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
98

sence in Australia. Basedow’s evidence
comprises four parts: the presence at two
      
  
of detached ‘tumbled blocks of rocks found

the other portion of which remained in situ
      
the presence of dark patina or glaze on
   
being of extinct megafauna species. The
       
      
     

the evidence Basedow cites. The high motifs
he mentions occur on the western side of the

The site consists principally of sub-schistose



    
is also a sub-horizontal sandstone lens of
about 40 m length and up to a few metres
thickness. Of poor mechanical strength



   
and it is the removal of blocks of this
sandstone by the creek that has rendered
Basedow’s petroglyphs on the phyllite above in-
accessible. Unless the makers of the high motifs

       
has to postdate the event of rock art production.
      
of dating the time of exposure. The probability that

art at these sites found on vertical surfaces occurs at
levels of convenient access from rock ledges. The

were the rock ledges of sandstone destabilised by the
creek and claimed by gravity. Although that remains

antiquity of the high motifs.
    


 
        
Figure 14. Map of the Olary-Flinders Ranges rock art region, with
some of the key petroglyph sites shown.
1 – Sturts Meadows/Eight Mile Creek, Euriowie; 2 – Karolta 1;
3 – Morialpa; 4 – Winnininnie 3; 5 – Panaramitee; 6 – Tiverton;
7 – Yunta Springs; 8 – Manunda Springs; 9 – Stone Chimney Creek;
10 – Orroroo; 11 – Yanyarrie Creek; 12 – Sacred Canyon;
13 – Pertawurtina; 14 – Moolooloo; 15 – Deception Creek/Red Gorge.
Figure 15. Yunta Springs, South Australia, view of the
western clis. The sandstone lens in the lower half of
the image has been truncated since the petroglyphs,
occurring on the overlying phyllite, were made; hence
the face of the sandstone postdates this rock art.
99
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
in October 2009 failed to locate any motifs

some rock climbing skills are required in
a few instances. A detailed examination
of two Genyornis   
   

that this attribution cannot be upheld
  Genyornis newtoni is thought to


Creek ‘large bird tracks’ are certainly of

   


microscopic examination suggests very limited surface deterio-

indication of surface retreat. Individual peck-marks remain well


(Fig. 17). In this lithological and erosive regime it is unlikely
that these motifs would exceed an age of two or three millennia.
      

Red Gorge would also favour a late Holocene age.

fauna that have so far been examined seem to predate the late
     
Procoptodon tracks’ at Tiverton (Fig. 18). Like all of the region’s
     
site complex with its thousands of motifs has no prospects of

petroglyphs of the Yunta-Mannahill region occur on metamorphic
       

mudstones and tillites — among the exceptions being one rock at

        
localised facies reaching the schist phase. What all of these rocks
have in common is that it is easy to produce both percussion



to form soluble bicarbonate. As the dark-brown accretionary

substrate becomes physically unstable and exfoliates.
Other relevant information derives from sites where petro-

abrasive wear by suspended load. This has occurred for instance at

Figure 18. ‘ Large macropod tracks’, among several found at the
Tiverton main site.
Figure 16. ‘Large bird tracks’ at Deception
Creek Site. Photograph by Livio Dobrez.
Figure 17. Microphotograph of one peck
mark forming part of a ‘large bird track’,
showing the perfect preservation of the
fracture edges. Note manganese deposit,
preferentially forming in the impact pit.
Deception Creek Site.
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
100
Such wear can be by bedload abrasion or the impact
 

Hartshorn et al. (2002) have shown that small grains
of diameter d

far in excess of what can be expected in the study area.



petroglyph sites between the Flinders Ranges and


orders of magnitude more erodible than quartzite or

  


 
whereas the active sediment at the Stone Chimney
Creek site east of Burra does contain some quartz.

 

with a regime of much greater kinetic energy and far
 


old.
       

on a single outcrop of well-metamorphosed siltstone
that contains occasional but rare quartz grains of the
sand fraction. These are rounded and frosted (pre-

 






      
      A 

       

Figure 19. Petroglyph right on the thalweg
of the Yanyarrie Creek, showing typical
wear by suspended load, with a Degree of
Erasure of 25%.
Figure 20. Circle, ‘bird track’ and ‘macropod track’ petroglyphs at
Manunda Springs Site. The locations of three analysed quartz
grains in the ‘bird track’ and one in each of the two parts of the
‘macropod track’ are indicated by the markers. Three of these
grains yielded microerosion data.
Figure 21. Microphotograph of one of the fractured
quartz grains in the ‘bird track’ motif at Manunda
Springs, showing the curved edge of the fractured
grain that provided ten micro-wane widths A (on the
far le in Fig. 20).
101
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
curve (relating to reasonably similar climatic condi-

a tentative estimate of these motifs’ absolute ages.

   

track’ is approximately E1440 +180 / -280 years  (Fig.

‘macropod track’ are E1870 +440 / -480 years  and
E1890 +420 / -270 years respectively (Fig. 23). In


    
centuries younger.
Only one other rock art site in NE South Australia

Sacred Canyon in the Flinders Ranges (see front cover).
1867 W W

   
Burke and Wills expedition. (Having been made third-

 


        
       
A 
basis of the Spear Hill calibration would correspond to

regarded as being too imprecise to allow a meaningful

curve itself is of such a short range.

 


coarse sand fraction do occur. Another form at the
site’s two main panels has individual particles of about
400 μm set in a well-sorted matrix uniformly in the


Figure 22. Manunda Springs ‘bird track’ motif,
microerosion analysis, using the Spear Hill
calibration curve.
Figure 23. Manunda Springs, microerosion analyses
of the two parts of ‘macropod track’, with Spear Hill
calibration curve.
Figure 24. Part of the 1867 inscription in Sacred
Canyon, by W. W., a few metres from the main panel.
The marker at the numeral ‘1’ indicates the location of
the fractured quartz grain subjected to microerosion
analysis.
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
102




weathering that may have facilitated the production of
the petroglyphs on this very hard rock. Of particular

       
because the middle part of a profusely engraved sur-


densely engraved (see front cover). Therefore the two

the petroglyphs covering them. This is starkly evident
in their condition of preservation: those on the lower

  
        

mination of the panel demands a Pleistocene antiquity

support that contention. Microscopic examination of
the petroglyphs so high above the ground has been
       
         
       
 
        
    
       
  
span and can be subdivided further. For instance a


but there seems to be also recent

cially smallish circles (also clearly
  

     
the numerous older petroglyphs (most of which are



       
      

they are on the leeside of the distinctive barrier across
the canyon.

of the Pleistocene rock art reached the high locations
of most of the older motifs at this site before the
detachment of part of the cliff face. Of the two
    

 
 
       


which might suggest that he was not aware of this site.
  
closely the monumental activity traces sometimes ob-
       
cave sites in the Mount Gambier district (Bednarik


     
 
distinctive cupule panels at Sacred Canyon (and most
other sites of the region) could be seen as excluding
Figure 26. Portion of the upper circle
of the Holocene section, north-
facing main panel of Sacred
Canyon, with marker indicting
the location of the quartz grain
analysed.
Figure 25. Comparison of the (lower) Pleistocene panel with the (upper)
Holocene panel at Sacred Canyon. One of the circles in the upper panel
is estimated to be about 6400 years old (see colour scale). There is very
limited similarity between the two panels, in both style and behavioural
production paern.
103
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK

present age estimate for the early palaeoart phase
at this remarkable site is 10–20 ka. It seems feasible
to secure reliable microerosion dates from Sacred

of the upper petroglyphs (Fig. 27). Although much of
the Pleistocene palaeoart at Sacred Canyon is too faint
      

multiple arcs.
Discussion

such as those found in limestone caves or on granitic
        
 
style. The only obvious component they share with that

phase towards ‘variant circles’ or ‘curviform mazes’
is apparent. One of the most surprising aspects of the

with the actual ‘type-site’ of this purported style (see

      
there are the usual circles and ‘tracks at Panaramitee

     



yarida motif and
 




 
typical to represent the construct of the Panaramitee

fervent advocates of the ‘Panaramitee style’ have

 
Figure 27. The author, an expert rock climber, pointing
to some of the high petroglyphs of Sacred Canyon in
1984. The arrow indicates the circle motif estimated to
be 6400 years old. Photograph by Elfriede Bednarik.
Figure 28. One of many complex designs at Panaramitee North
defying the denition of a ‘Panaramitee style’.
Figure 29. A pisciform petroglyph at Panaramitee
North, apparently early and fairly naturalistic;
recordings by (a) Mountford and Edwards (1962)
and (b) showing individual peck marks and exfoliated
areas.
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
104
         
      

about its age — but most importantly to the lumping

because they occur at the same sites. The idea of the
      

notio
piction of extinct species. Since there is not a shred
      
art has      
       
independently.
      
to the ‘Panaramitee style’ was Maynard’s conviction
       
which must therefore have arrived on the island prior
to its sunderance towards the end of the Pleistocene.

   
 
      
      
Tasmanian petroglyph sites are either coastal (Sims

       
      
and typically not on the coast or on mountains. But the
Tasmanian tradition closely resembles Pleistocene site

early phase (e.g. arcs at Sundown Point) or the Karake
tradition of the Mt Gambier caves (virtually matching
sites such as Preminghana). As in Tasmania and in the


many similarities with the late Karake genre.
The two fundamental errors that were made in the

of the ‘Panaramitee style’ are the following:
1. The most elementary methodological tool of the
archaeologist is the separation of chronological

provided by excavation. No archaeological purpose
of any kind would be served if the excavator of
a site lumped together into one single lot all the
stone implements of an entire deposit spanning
     
pronounced them as being of the ‘Stone Age’.
  
archaeological’ approach is precisely what has
    
rock art to the same chronological separation as
     
types and pronouncements will be and must be
falsities (Fig. 30).
2. To appreciate the relative longevity of petroglyphs

needs to be understood. The time it takes natural
processes of erosion and weathering to eace a petroglyph
is proportionally similar to the time it takes to create it,
relative to rock hardness and density. Thus if it takes
a thousand times as long to create a 12-mm-deep
cupule on fully metamorphosed quartzite (Kumar
2007) than it takes to make an identical cupule on
weathered sandstone (Bednarik 1998c) — as is
indeed roughly the case — it will take in the order
of a thousand times as long to expunge it on the

Concerning the second point: to create a ‘standard
cupule’ (Bednarik 1998c) on very hard quartzite with
a hammerstone requires in excess of 30 
several days of pounding — as shown by the diligent


        
 
       
      
it also provides a measure of the equally profound



      


       

case of the ‘Panaramitee’. What is particularly dis-
turbing about these misapprehensions is that at some



provide a good measure of rock marking ages. Such

 

that petroglyphs of the same site are of the 20th century
     
insist that they must be Palaeolithic.
Figure 30. Superimposition of two petroglyph traditions
of greatly diering ages (compare dierence in
accretionary deposits) at Panaramitee North, the
purported type-site of the ‘Panaramitee style’.
105
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
One more observation concerning the taphonomy
of the Broken Hill – Flinders Ranges petroglyph
       
occur at sites where a stream broke through a rock
barrier. Such barriers range from the perhaps most
pronounced examples at Euriowie and Sacred Can-



 
somewhat harder than the region’s general lithology.
It may then be that such sites have facilitated selective
preservation of petroglyphs (Bednarik 1994b).
In the case of the professed Pleistocene antiquity
        
recently investigated such petroglyphs at two central
  
demonstrated that they are of mid-Holocene ages.
Providing two internally consistent series of 14
from both sedimentary charcoal and calcium oxalate



petroglyph corpora assigned to the ‘Panaramitee’ tend

advocates of this ‘style’. This follows several previous
 

      
        

but probable mid-Holocene age of the numerous circle
petroglyphs in Mt Yengo Rockshelter (McDonald
   

     
  

still produced in central Australia in the 20th century

it not been for the intransigence of the Panaramitee
   



such as how does one detect Pleistocene rock art in
 
     
be assumed to have survived in this country. The
   
Panaramitee mythology is relinquished. Several cor-
pora or distinctive types of rock art have high prospects
of being of the Pleistocene.
Cupules
These are among the earliest rock art known in the

(Bednarik 2008b). This does not necessarily mean that



that they are then unlikely to be the oldest made.
 

 
the presence of cupules as such is not necessarily
 

 


sandstone) and no doubt elsewhere. The occurrence
of Lower Palaeolithic cupule panels in southern Asia

 

Cave petroglyphs



   



   

this tradition was certainly continued well into the
 

          
‘cave version’ of the archaic linear petroglyph tradition

which matches not only the linear petroglyphs of Tas-

across the continent (Fig. 32).
Figure 31. Production of ‘Panaramitee-style’ petroglyphs
in the 20th century, central Australia. Photograph by
Charles P. Mountford in 1937 at Thompson’s rock-
hole, near The Granites, Northern Territory.
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
106
Archaic linear petroglyphs
      
 
tradition or group of traditions of rock art
seems to occur widely across Australia
and is dominated by curvilinear mazes
(the main motif at Sandy Creek Shelter in
      

perhaps) circles with internal barring and
divided circles. Another apparently late
addition to the repertoire of this ‘tradition’

     
(hence called ‘trident’ by Rosenfeld) and in


tradition is entirely free of both human
and other animal track-like forms as well

conveys the impression that the concept of individual
motifs is of limited relevance to its manifestations. Its larger
compositions could be seen as combinations of many
   
Because these archaic linear petroglyphs have long been
       
     
  
neglect of Pleistocene rock art in Australia. Apart from

         
where a few randomly chosen circular and curvilinear
motifs have provided dates of up to about 27 ka (Bednarik

Pictograms
Watchman’s pioneering work of detecting paint resi-
dues in sequences of oxalate accretions has soundly
established the presence of early ochre applications in


of this Pleistocene tradition of pictograms remains largely
 

        



candidates for such age are hand stencils in deep limestone

 
such antiquity remains to be demonstrated satisfactorily.
Certainly there is ample evidence that haematite has been


previously in three other continents since the Lower
Palaeolithic (Bednarik 1994a).
Figure 32. Cave petroglyphs of the Karake genre, which generally
resembles Pleistocene linear petroglyphs at open sites. Karlie-
ngoinpool Cave, near Mt Gambier, in 1985.
Figure 33. Typical curvilinear maze design of the
archaic linear tradition, surviving in a well-
protected location under a thick silica skin;
Sandy Creek, Cape York Peninsula. The traces of
chalking predate 1982 (see Flood 1987: Pl. 8).
107
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
The Tasmanian issue
 
any indication of Pleistocene age for rock

dence from cave pictograms (Cosgrove and
   
One of Maynard’s contentions concerning
the proposed antiquity of her ‘Panaramitee
style’ is its purported similarity with Tasma-
nian petroglyphs. Although that similarity

         

 
the case: if one eliminates the Panaramitee
concept from early mainland petroglyph




       
  
evidence was not.
Other aspects of early traditions


Pleistocene rock art is the integration of natural
       
topography) into the arrangement of motifs. This is

aspect also widely observed in the Lower and Middle

that it is sometimes perceived as illustrating cognitive
reactions to pre-existing conditions of a support sur-

  

its marking strategies. It is much less pronounced in

      


Another distinctive feature of Pleistocene rock art is the



it seems to be the act of mark production rather than

Quantifying Australian Pleistocene rock art
In the absence of large-scale dating programs it may
be premature to assess the frequency of Pleistocene


of rock paintings or other pictograms having survived




      
environmental conditions can at open sites survive for
periods of tens of millennia. Taphonomic logic decrees
that this applies especially on very hard and dense

cut petroglyphs survive longest (Bednarik 1994b). The
earliest period seems to be dominated by cupules and





the Americas by cupules and linear grooves (Bednarik
        


Age’ tradition. Australia is presumed to have been
initially settled by Middle Palaeolithic seafarers

presence of this rock art tradition in India have been
suggested to have imported it with their initial arrival

The Middle Palaeolithic stone tool technology they
also introduced continued in Australia to the mid-
  
Tasmania up to the British destruction of traditional

rock art in Australia is necessarily of Mode 3 (‘Middle



Palaeolithic rock art traditions. Tasmanian rock art
is dominated by cupules (although they have been



divided circles and circles with internal barring that
are so prominent in the ‘Karake genre’ of the caves

Figure 34. Tasmanian petroglyphs at Trial Harbour, west coast.
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
108


    
discrete features not intended to depict tracks.
It is possible to speculate about the extent of
Pleistocene rock art in Australia by resorting to the
following reasonable assumptions. Deeply ham-

iconic petroglyphs on particularly erosion-
resistant rock types are probably of the
      
found in limestone caves. At open sites
these petroglyphs occur usually in arid or
     
types such as granites and other igneous
      
well-metamorphosed quartzites. At a
rough estimate the proportion of motifs
that should be expected to fall into this
      
of the total Australian inventory. Since it
is reasonably estimated that there are at
    
it follows that over a million petroglyphs
could be expected to have survived from
    
This may well be higher than the combined
number of surviving Mode 3 petroglyphs
from the rest of the world (few are known


      

the total number of motifs so far reported from pre-
sumed Upper Palaeolithic or Mode 4 traditions in the
  
almost exclusively a western European phenomenon
according to present knowledge — although that pro-
position also needs to be tested.
Two fundamental observations follow on from



surviving Middle Palaeolithic (or Mode 3) than Upper



     
to be appreciated that this could well be a sampling
   
art (Bednarik 1994b). All surviving Mode 3 rock art
can be regarded as being of the greatest taphonomic
longevity. It should therefore logically be seen as a

which the less deterioration-resistant forms have all

of the Mode 3 petroglyphs should be regarded as

sense as the perceived preference of cave locations for
the production of Mode 4 rock art is almost certainly
       

as remnant populations that have experienced massive

evident from the composition of the surviving sample
of Upper Palaeolithic mobiliary art: it consists almost
entirely of materials that survive preferentially in high-
Figure 35. Circles with internal barring in Paroong Cave, near Mt
Gambier, in 1983, shortly aer their re-discovery by G. Aslin.
Figure 36. Mode 3 circle and cupules on quartzite at
Klipbak Site 1, southern Kalahari.
109
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
pH sediments and is always found in such sediments.


which also implies a massive taphonomic bias.
Summary
A review of secure or potential candidates of
Australian Pleistocene rock art suggests not only that

it also implies that it consists entirely of a repertoire

having been produced by societies possessing what are

popular notion of art-like productions commencing
with the famous Upper Palaeolithic traditions of the

has marred practically all discussions of the origins
of symboling. Rather than seeing the emergence of
graphic exograms (single entries in an extra-cranial


 -

stimuli as a biophysical or biochemical change in neu-

that emerged miraculously in France with the advent
       
marks modernity in the human lineage — is a gradual
     
and mostly outside of the Franco-Cantabrian theatre.


 
remaining Pleistocene palaeoart of the world has been


only in public appreciation but also in preservation
priorities. While sites of Franco-Cantabrian cave
 
corresponding to their perceived relevance to the
     



known corpus of Pleistocene rock art occurs but has

a result of archaeological misconceptions has not even


the discovered body of early palaeoart has prompted
 

of Australia remains severely neglected and most
 



Pleistocene rock art. There can be no doubt that the

      
research based on fallacies has contributed to this

Australian Pleistocene palaeoart is considerably more
  
from an earlier technological context and therefore
can tell us far more about the beginnings of symbol
use and human cognitive evolution. Although similar
material of comparably early nature does occur else-
         
      
indications harbours far more Mode 3 rock art than
the rest of the world combined. Large corpora of such


the world’s Mode 3 rock art has survived in Australia.
Instead of celebrating and promoting this incredible
  

has contributed to its neglect and ongoing destruction:
no European site of Pleistocene rock art would be

sites have consistently experienced.
Acknowledgments





RAR referees of this paper: Dr Livio

Robert G. Bednarik


Australia
E-mail: auraweb@hotmail.com

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
Rock Art Research


Australian Aboriginal Studies
La Pintura
17(3): 8–9.

Archaeometry 34(2): 279–291.
Rock Art Research 10:
138–139.
Anthropos
Antiquity


style. AURA Newsleer
  
Lower Palaeolithic. Current Anthropology
    
methodology of direct rock art dating. Archaeometry
38(1): 1–13.
Bolleino
del Centro Camuno di Studi Preistorici

Sahul. Anthropos
  
  Journal of
the Royal Society of Western Australia

cave petroglyphs. Geoarchaeology 13(4): 411–418.
Rock
Art Research
     
The Artefact 22:

Rock art science: the scientic
study of palaeoart

Rock Art
Research

Anthropos

Records of the Western Australian Museum 20: 414–429.
      
Journal of Archaeological Science

Cave Art Research
  
part 1. Rock Art Research

art in the world. Cave Art Research 8: 1–12.
  Rock Art Research
100.

the question. Rock Art Research

Journal of Archaeological
Science

of petroglyphs. Rock Art Research

 and E. 

Rock Art Research
 1999. Nale Tasih: eine
Floßfahrt in die Steinzeit
 and R. G. 
   Rock Art
Research 22: 147–197.
 in prep. Forensic studies

Records of the South
Australian Museum
    and S.  1991.
Precision of rock-varnish chemical analyses and cation-
ratio ages. Geology
    
rock paintings. Archaeology and Physical Anthropology in
Oceania 7(1): 24–30.

changing cultural traditions in a changing environment.
Rock art and prehistory:
papers presented to Symposium G of the AURA Congress,
Darwin 1988

 
Advances
in dating Australian rock-markings
    

 

L’Anthropologie

weathered basaltic crust in absolute chronology. Nature


 


World
Archaeology

State of the
art: regional rock art studies in Australia and Melanesia
111
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK


Sturt’s Meadows guide
guide for 2009 AURA Inter-Congress Symposium in
Broken Hill.

 Australian Institute of
Aboriginal Studies Newsleer

 Rock Art
Research
    
 Report on the
Aboriginal engravings and ora and fauna, Depuch Island,
Western Australia


distribution of pecked faces in Australia. Memoirs of the
Queensland Museum

 and M. 

northern Australian prehistory. In R. G. Bednarik and
 NEWS 95 Proceedings, Symposium 1A.

ROM).
Origins of the modern mind: three stages in
the evolution of culture and cognition. Harvard University

-
pacities. Behavioural and Brain Sciences
A mind so rare: the evolution of human con-
sciousness
    
age-determination technique. Quaternary Research 20:
49–73.
   
Aeolian
geomorphology

art perspective. La Pintura
 
engravings. International Newsleer on Rock Art 2: 10–14.


New light on old art    

Angeles.
La Pintura 23(2):
10–11.
14C ages for petroglyphs
Archaeology in
Oceania
      
(Portugal) engravings with radiocarbon dating. Antiquity

 and
D. S.  1992. New approach to the radiocarbon
  
Annals of the Association of American Geographers 82(1):

     1984. Chronometric and
relative age determination of petroglyphs in the western
United States. Annals of the Association of American
Geographers 42: 308–322.
  

Archaeology and Physical Anthropology in Oceania 11: 32–
44.
Antiquity

Devil’s Lair, a study in prehistory. Western

 


Australian Archaeology

Aboriginal rock engravings: a review of problems and
prospects. Archaeology in Oceania
 
   
Search
  

Australian Archaeology
   

Search

Search
   
Mankind

 
in South and central Australia. Transactions of the Royal
Society of South Australia 90: 33–38.
    
Aboriginal man and
environment in Australia


 2008. Optically stimulated luminescence
dating of quartz sediment associated with Middle Palaeolithic
assemblages in India. Poster presented at December 2008

Noosa Heads.

Rock Art Research
Rock art of the Dreamtime
Sydney.
Geological
Society of America Bulletin, Part II 91: 2189–2213.
 1997. Mode 3 technologies and the
evolution of modern humans. Cambridge Archaeological
Journal
 
Rock art and prehistory:
papers presented to Symposium G of the AURA Congress,
Darwin 1988

 and L. M. 
human occupation of northern Australia: archaeology

Northern Territory. Antiquity

Helictite
 
  Archaeology
of the Gallus Site, Koonalda Cave

       
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
112
   Form in indigenous art  


markings in Europe and Australia’. Rock Art Research

Science
278: 220–222.

oxalate: further studies on organic carbon content and
radiocarbon age of materials relating to Australian rock
art. Antiquity 71: 430–437.
 1930. Notes on some human
  
Records of the South Australian Museum
   and G. F.  

Records of the South Australian Museum 9(4).
 and R. L. 
2002. Climate-driven bedrock incision in an active
mountain belt. Science
Archaeological research in Kakadu National
Park
Canberra.


in India. Paper presented to the First International Cu-

Australian rock art: a new synthesis. Cam-

 
   
     
State of the art: regional rock art
studies in Australia and Melanesia
   

Continent of hunter-gatherers: new
perspectives in Australian prehistory. Cambridge University



Australia. Helictite

Australia: a reply to Nelson. Antiquity

 and R.  1990. Accelerator radiocarbon
dating of human blood proteins in pigments from Late
Pleistocene art sites in Australia. Antiquity
A guide to the geology and mineral resources
of South Australia
Adelaide.
 
region: context and theory in the analysis of a dual-
  
Rock art and prehistory: papers presented to Symposium G
of the AURA Congress, Darwin 1988

 and
B.  1990. Investigating 14C AMS: dating prehistoric
Rock
Art Research 7: 83–92.

Northern Territory. Oceania

Form in indigenous
art
Canberra.

Exploring the visual art of Oceania


Archaeology of the Gallus Site, Koonalda Cave

Canberra.

  
Archaeology at ANZAAS 1983      


 and L. K.  1999.
Pleistocene extinction of Genyornis newtoni: human impact
on Australian megafauna. Science
Tadrart Acacus
   
Antiquity 48: 87–92.

highlands: the stone component. Archaeology in Oceania


Rock Art
Research
Visions from the past: the archaeology of
Australian Aboriginal art
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
 
Flinders University of South Australia.
  
rock engraving at Panaramitee North. Transactions and
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    
engravings of extinct creatures in South Australia. Man

  
Transactions
and Proceedings of the Royal Society of South Australia

  
    
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
  1984. The Dreamtime
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     
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
Form in indigenous art: schematisation in the art
of Aboriginal Australia and prehistoric Europe

Rock Art Research

 1998. River longitudinal pro-
   
 
Rivers over rock: Fluvial processes in bed-
rock channels

 2009. Direct dating
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
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-
Geological
Society of America Bulletin
  
     and D. 
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Mungo 3 skeleton. Journal of Human Evolution


of giant bird tracks at Pimba. Records of the South
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

Depuch Island   

Dream road: a journey of discovery. Allen and

     
blood residues on experimental stone tools. Journal of
Archaeological Science

rich crusts in Australia. Rock Art Research

bration curve: evidence from South Australia. Rock Art
Research

at Australian Aboriginal sites: evidence from rock
Retouch: maintenance
and conservation of Aboriginal rock imagery 
 


in northern Australia. Geoarchaeology


Dating and the earliest known rock art


methods for dating carbon in silica skins and oxalate
  Advances in
dating Australian rock-markings 
    



Rock Art Research
 and C. 
1997. AMS radiocarbon age estimates for early rock

results. Rock Art Research
 
Archaeology and
Physical Anthropology in Oceania
RAR 27-964
Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 89-113. R. G. BEDNARIK
114 Rock Art Research 2010 - Volume 27, Number 1.
... Creek are thought to be at least 30,000 years old (Bednarik 2010). Early animal depictions in Kimberly region are believed to be 40,000 years old. ...
... Early animal depictions in Kimberly region are believed to be 40,000 years old. In terms of geometric forms, circular shapes on a bolder in Spear Hill/Abydos are dated to 20,000-27,000 years ago with older symbols found in the surrounding vicinity (Bednarik 2010). Finger fluting at the Gallus site dates to at least 20,000 years. ...
... 1. The thousands of Pleistocene or early Holocene rock art sites of Australia (Bednarik 2010) are all of Mode 3 technocomplexes, which in Europe are called Middle Palaeolithic. In Tasmania, all rock art is necessarily of Mode 3 industries. ...
... In these circumstances the 'high priests of the discipline' (Thompson 2014) have managed to censure information on most pre-40 ka BP palaeoart quite effectively, although they were never quite able to extinguish it entirely (e.g. Bednarik 1990aBednarik , 1992Bednarik , 1995Bednarik , 1997aBednarik , 1997bBednarik , 2001Bednarik , 2005Bednarik , 2008bBednarik , 2010Bednarik , 2013aBednarik , 2013bBednarik , 2014bBednarik , 2015cBednarik , 2017. The existing record is therefore severely compromised and has been deliberately truncated by those controlling what is published prominently. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Most of the differences between humans and other animals still endorsed in the 20th century have now been refuted. Even theory of mind, self-awareness, recursion and metarepresentation are losing their eminence as exclusively human variables. This may leave us with just one distinguishing trait: the talent of creating and using memory traces external to the brain. Palaeoart is the principal empirical evidence of this ability from the human past, a corpus that has been misconstrued in various respects. For instance, the discussion of the dawn of art-like productions and the behavioural range they facilitate has been consistently marred by humanistic banalities and lapses. Among the most damaging are to treat such productions as art or as symbols, and to impose commensurate but false taxonomies. Another fatal shortcoming of this debate has been the rejection of exogrammatic evidence on the basis that it is not art. This presentation endeavours to correct some of these misunderstandings.
... In France (and also in Spain) rock art research is conducted with a great emphasis on 'Palaeolithic art', whereas in Australia attribution to the Ice Age has been pursued only in a cavalier fashion. In the limited number of cases it was raised, it referred almost always to mistaken identifications of extinct megafauna species or their tracks (Bednarik 2010(Bednarik , 2013aWelch and Welch 2015;Lewis 2017). Noting that there is far more Pleistocene rock art in Australia, and that all of it is of 'Middle' rather than 'Upper Palaeolithic' technological traditions, we observed that 'no scholar has investigated the Antipodean corpus with even remotely the zeal lavished on European Upper Palaeolithic art' (Bednarik 2008a: 179). ...
... Noting that there is far more Pleistocene rock art in Australia, and that all of it is of 'Middle' rather than 'Upper Palaeolithic' technological traditions, we observed that 'no scholar has investigated the Antipodean corpus with even remotely the zeal lavished on European Upper Palaeolithic art' (Bednarik 2008a: 179). Indeed, at the time there was not a single book or scholarly article dedicated solely to the Pleistocene palaeoart of Australia (that has now changed; Bednarik 2010Bednarik , 2014a and almost no literature on the pan-continental Pleistocene corpora of the remaining continents (but see now Bednarik 2013bBednarik , 2013cBednarik , 2014b. One of the referees of the 2008 paper, R. G. Gunn, posed a fascinating question: why is there such an incredible disparity between the appreciation of French and Australian rock art? ...
... Further parallels might eventually be found in the Aboriginal art of the Panaramitee tradition in Australia. This rock art style was produced from the Upper Palaeolithic to the twentieth century (Bednarik 2010) and includes repeated geometric motifs, straight or sinuous lines, as well as animal and human footprints (Franklin 2007). Aboriginal people who still practice similar art recognize in this rock art cosmogonic representations of the 'Dreamtime', figuring the journeys of the ancestors and the landscape they created; as such, they should be regarded as mapping and explaining the landscape (Flood 2004). ...
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While early maps are known from all over the world, the key questions always involve: what exactly do they show? And what spatial extent do they cover? In this context, we recently used 3D‐modelling to re‐examine a carved stone slab datable to the Early Bronze Age (c.2150–1600 BC) that was found at Saint‐Bélec in Brittany. We show that the surface of the slab had been shaped in three dimensions to represent the relief of the surrounding landscape in which it was found, while several engraved motifs on it evoke contemporary structures known archaeologically. We argue that the Saint‐Bélec slab represents an area of c.545 km2 corresponding to the extent of a prehistoric political entity. The carving and subsequent burying of the slab can be linked to the postulated rise and fall of hierarchical societies and raises many wider questions about socio‐economic structures in temperate Europe at that time.
... In Australian Indigenous culture, stories of how temporary streams formed are of deep spiritual significance (Weir, 2009). Here, artefacts also illustrate the spiritual value of temporary streams; for example, rock art in Sacred Canyon in semi-arid Australia depicts people and waterholes (Bednarik, 2010;Boulton, 2014). ...
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1.Temporary streams are dynamic ecosystems in which mosaics of flowing, ponded and dry habitats support high biodiversity of both aquatic and terrestrial species. Species interact within habitats to perform or facilitate processes that vary in response to changing habitat availability. A natural capital approach recognizes that, through such processes, the ‘natural assets’ of all ecosystems deliver services that benefit people. 2.The ecosystem services of temporary streams remain largely unexplored, in particular those provided during ponded and dry phases. In addition, recent characterizations have focused on dryland systems, and it remains unclear how service provision varies among different climatic regions, or between developed and developing economies. 3.We use evidence from interdisciplinary literature to examine the ecosystem services delivered by temporary streams, including the regulating, provisioning and cultural services provided across the continuum from flowing to dry conditions. We focus on service provision during dry phases and wet–dry transitions, across regions with contrasting climates and economic development. 4.Provision of individual services in temporary streams may be reduced, enhanced or changed by surface water loss. Services enhanced by dry phases include provision of higher‐quality subsurface drinking water and unique opportunities for recreation. Shifts between dry and wet phases enable groundwater recharge that mitigates water scarcity, and grant dry‐phase access to sediments deposited during flowing phases. However, the accessibility and thus perceived value of these and other services varies considerably among regions. In addition, accessing provisioning services requires careful management to promote sustainable resource use and avoid ecological degradation. 5.We highlight the need for environmental managers to recognize temporary streams as aquatic–terrestrial ecosystems, and to take actions promoting their diversity within functional socio‐ecological systems that deliver unique service bundles characterized by variability and differing availability in space and time.
... In South Africa, Europe and Australia there is a distinctive preference of circular motifs, which in Australia was developed into a complex tradition of circles and circulinear mazes of great complexity, culminating in concentric circles and circles with internal vertical barring ( Figure 5). The graphic circularity is even detectable in complex compositions of finger flutings, as in Yaranda Cave, Victoria, which are in excess of 45 000 years old (Bednarik 2010 , Fig. 12). Indeed, all of the known cave art of Australia (i.e., rock art in limestone caves) consists purely of finger flutings, cupules, circular forms, parallel line sets, convergent lines motifs and a very few other aniconic elements (Bednarik 1990). ...
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Contrary to the widely held belief that iconic palaeoart precedes aniconic during the early history of humans, palaeoart commenced as non-iconic forms, and in most parts of the world then settled by hominins continued as such during the Pleistocene. The forms, development and global distribution of such palaeoart are presented within the framework of hominin evolution. Attention is given to the question of the continuation of aniconism after the introduction of iconicity and the apparent connection between the latter and youth. This coincides with the role of aniconism in the world of specific ethnographically studied peoples, such as the Aborigines of Australia and the Jarawas of the Andamans. The neuroscientific explanation of aniconism shows that it is cognitively more complex than iconic depiction. Based on these and other strands of evidence, a general hypothesis of the roles and significance of aniconism in the world’s pre-literate societies, be they extant or extinct, is developed.
... In the 1930s, Davidson (1937) attempted to map the geographical distribution of paintings and engravings across the continent. McCarthy (1958) used engraving techniques (abraded and pecked) to develop a pan-Australian temporal sequence and, more recently, Bednarik (2010) has explored the nature of Pleistocene engravings in a broadscale context. Elsewhere, researchers have drawn attention to the restricted geographical distribution of finger flutingslinear patterns made using fingers and 'pointed tools' on the soft walls in limestone caves during the Pleistoceneto southern Australia (Morwood 2002:142; see also Flood 2006;Taçon 2001). ...
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The known geographic distribution of beeswax rock art is largely restricted to the Arnhem Land plateau and Kimberley regions of northern Australia. While considerable research has focussed on the antiquity and meaning of beeswax rock art, much less attention has been directed to the nature and extent of the distribution pattern for this unique motif production technique. In this article, we present details of two beeswax motifs recently discovered in Marra Country at Limmen National Park (southwest Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory). In the first instance, the motifs are explored in the context of their meaning, drawing on ethnography collected in the region over the last 40 years. The motifs are then used as a platform to engage with questions around the low frequency, and in some cases complete absence, of beeswax rock art across other areas of northern Australia. While it is highly unlikely there is one single, homogenous explanation for this in the Gulf country and northeastern Australia, we suggest that exploring the social, cultural and relational understandings of beeswax in these areas offers considerable potential to understand better how people engaged with and inscribed their cultural landscapes.
... Sin embargo, con posterioridad la realidad se ha hecho más plural sin que haya un investigador líder que marque la pauta a seguir. Como consecuencia, multitud de emplazamientos con arte de cronología paleolítica han sido descubiertos y estudiados en Asia (Aubert 2014;Bednarik 1994;Clottes 2012, 149-167;Olivieri 2010;Taçon et al. 2010), América (Clottes 2012;101-147;Loendorf et al. 2005;Turpin 2001), Australia (Bednarik 2010;Clottes 2012: 169-185;Taçon 2010;Taçon et al. 2012) y África (Clottes 2012, 91-100;Coulson y Cambell 2001;Deacon, 2007;Le Quellec 2004;Lewis-Williams 2000;. Por otra parte, las investigaciones sobre el arte paleolítico se han ido transformando a medida que han incorporado nuevas ideas de las últimas tendencias teóricas y metodológicas de la antropología y la arqueología. ...
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La historia del descubrimiento, estudio e interpretación del arte paleolítico por parte del pensamiento contemporáneo de los siglos XIX y XX resulta apasionante. Pero ésta no se compone sólo de las expediciones y hallazgos de los prehistoriadores, sino también de los debates suscitados al tratar de ordenar e interpretar esas nuevas revelaciones del pasado. De hecho, la génesis y transformación de la idea de “arte paleolítico” pueden ser interpretadas como una respuesta a todos estos debates. Este libro es una reflexión crítica sobre la manera en que se han conceptuado las imágenes y representaciones paleolíticas desde su descubrimiento a finales del siglo XIX hasta las décadas finales del siglo XX. Desde el punto de vista de la historia de las ideas y de la historia de las mentalidades, el autor profundiza en cómo ciertas concepciones del pensamiento occidental establecieron el marco de interpretación general que sirvió para explicar los grabados, pinturas y esculturas del Paleolítico durante más de un siglo. Las categorías en las que se expresó esa explicación fueron las de “arte”, “sociedad primitiva” y “evolución”.
... More recent work confirms a long period of desertion of the Kimberley between ice ages that may explain the traces of different cultural strata. Robert Bednarik now suspects a migration most probably from Timor or Rote about 60,000 years ago (Bednarik 2010). Julia Martínez and Adrian Vickers supply an overview of maritime mobility in eastern Indonesia in the historical past and speculate that 'the name Jawi' (neighbouring the Bardi on Dampier Land) 'may even come from reference to Indonesians' (Martínez and Vickers 2015: 49). ...
... We developed the typology of visuals for our experiment from PBA-like forms based on assumptions underlined in such interdisciplinary approaches to the ontological character of visual cues in prehistoric representational systems in archaic Uto-Aztecan contexts. The typology could be, in principle, true of rock art universals in other prehistoric cultures (Dowson 1992; Bednarik 2010;Neumayer 2013). ...
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Abstract Anthropomorphism has been considered as evidence of a plenum for religious theogony. This sort of idea has been noted by various anthropologists since Malinowski (1948, 1979) formulated the theory that divinities repre- sented agencies of intentions that could not be explained as direct causalities in the contingent world. Malinowski (1979) identi ed that these symbols were ascribed as carriers of unexplai- ned intentions and also as surrogates of wish ful lments. We suggest that human con gura- tions from preliterate forager societies appear to have innate psychological objectivity. A neuro-ethological analysis of these shapes and con gurations indicates that animal-hu- man gures (also called patterned body an- thropomorphs, aka PBAs) of multiple gen- ders (including standard males and females and notable transgenders) that we see on rock surfaces essentially perform instances of what Lorenz and Martin (1971) called xed-action stimulation for any contemporary viewer, just as it did for our ancestors. The possibility exi- sts that PBAs contain visual components that evoke intense, though transient, re ex states. These responses of subjects towards their vi- sual characteristics serve to demonstrate that the prehistoric drawings of anthropomorphs in particular were perhaps meant to sensitize and prepare an individual with what Boyer called counterintuitive experiences, in which common memory combines with unexpected properties and facilitates emotions of transcen- dence, fear or strangeness. These data support the thesis that such visual images communicate somewhat independently from their social va- lue and utility to create and deliberately nurtu- re an impression of atemporal numinosity. The latter suggestions perhaps help in deducing the symbolic message of these ancient religious symbols. Keywords: Coso representational rock art tra- dition, counter-intuitionalism, invariances, neuro-ethology, PBAs, archaic Uto-Aztecan, visual representation, symbolic inversion, pe- troglyph, pictographs.