Australian Aboriginal Rock Paintings
Lecturer: Good morning, everyone. I’ve been invited to talk about my research project into Australian Aboriginal rock paintings. The Australian Aborigines have recorded both real and symbolic images of their time on rock walls for many thousands of years. Throughout the long history of this tradition, new images have appeared and new painting sells have developed, and these characteristics can be used to categorise the different artistic styles. Among these are what we call the dynamic am and modern styles of painting. One of the most significant characteristics all the different cells, is the way that humans are depicted in the paintings. The more recent paintings show people in static poses, but the first human images to dominate rock art paintings over 8000 years ago were full of movement. The’s paintings showed people hunting and cooking food, and so they were given the name dynamic to reflect this energy. It’s quite amazing considering there were painted in such a simple stick like form in the yam period, there was a movement away from stick figures tow a more naturalistic shape. However, they didn’t go as far as the modern style, which is known as X ray because it actually makes a feature of the internal skeleton as well as the organs of animals and humans. The Yan style of painting got its name from the fact that it featured much curvy of figures that actually resemble the vegetable. Call the M, which is similar to a sweet potato. The modern paintings are interesting because they include paintings. At the time of the first contact with European settlers, Aborigines managed to convey the idea of the settlers clothing by simply painting the Europeans without any hands, indicating the habit of standing with their hands in their pockets. Size is another characteristic. The more recent images tend to be life size or even larger, but the dynamic figures are painted in miniature. Aboriginal rock art also records the environmental changes that occurred over thousands of years. For example, we know from the dynamic paintings that over 8000 years ago aborigines would have rarely eaten fish and sea levels were much lower this time. In fact, fish didn’t start to appear in paintings until the end period, along with shells and other marine images. The paintings of the yam tradition also suggests that during this time the aborigines moved away from animals, is their main food source and began including vegetables in their diet Is Thies feature prominently. Fresh water creatures didn’t appear in the paintings until the modern period from 4000 years ago, so these paintings have already taught us a lot. But one image that has always intrigued us is known as the Rainbow Serpent. The Rainbow Serpent, which is the focus of my most recent project, gets its name from its snake or serpent like body, and it first appeared in the Yam period 4 to 6000 years ago. Many believe it is a curious mixture of kangaroos, snake and crocodile, but we decided to study the Rainbow Serpent paintings to see if we could locate the animal that the very first painter’s based their image on the end period coincided with the end of the last ice age. This brought about tremendous change in the environment with sea levels rising and creeping steadily inland. This flooded many familiar land features and also caused a great deal of disruption to traditional patterns of life. Hunting in particular, new shores were formed, and totally different creatures would have washed up onto the shores. We studied 107 paintings of the Rainbow Serpent and found that the one creature that matches it most closely was the ribbon to pipe fish, which is a type of seahorse. This sea creature would have been a totally unfamiliar sight in the inland regions where the image is found, and it may have been the inspiration behind the early paintings. So at the end of the ice age, there would have been enormous changes in animal and plant life. It’s not surprising, then, that the Aborigines linked this abundance to the new creatures they witnessed. Even today, Aborigines see the Rainbow Serpent as a symbol of creation, which is understandable given the increase in vegetation and the new life forms that featured when the image first appeared.