The Rock Art Network Paul Taçon
The Rock Art Network Paul Taçon
The Rock Art Network Paul Taçon
Paul Taçon
The Histories of Australian Rock Art Research symposium, 8-9 December 2019, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
5 November 2019

by Paul Taçon
ARC Australian Laureate Fellow (2016-2021).
Chair in Rock Art Research and Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology, Griffith University, Australia.
Director, The Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit (PERAHU)

Emerging Consciousness and New Media: The Management of Rock Art in Southeast Asia and New Opportunities for Communicating Its Significance
After tens of thousands of years of Indigenous rock art production, curation, inspiration, contemplation and renewal people arriving from faraway lands also began to take an interest in Australia’s incredible rock art diversity and history. This began in 1788, soon after the arrival of Governor Arthur Phillip and his men from Great Britain and the establishment of Port Jackson (now Sydney). In 1803 rock art on Chasm Island, Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, was remarked upon by maritime explorer Matthew Flinders, with some panels recorded by artist William Westall. Interest in Australia’s rock art has grown steadily since, with recent efforts accelerating over the past 100 years and especially since the 1980s.

But there comes a time in every field of research when enough time has passed for its early practitioners to become founding members and their actions to become the subject of critical reflection. Now is that time for the study of Australian rock art. This complex history of research is imbued with unique personalities, international influences, politically charged debate, and shifting relationships within and across established disciplines, such as archaeology. The Histories of Australian Rock Art Research symposium aims to bring together people to reflect upon unique events, ideas and trajectories in the history of Australian rock art. Papers will reflect from a variety of viewpoints, including but not limited to the discussion of Australian rock art research from international perspectives, Indigenous engagement and community experiences, regional studies, reflections on the work of individuals, particular sites, techniques and influential paradigms.

With 29 presentations over two days we have a full program and one representing the diversity of rock art research in Australia. We are particularly delighted to have 14 Indigenous/First Nation presenters from Western Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory. Their stories of past and current rock art research in their country will bring an important element to these histories and will help to guide ongoing rock art research across Australia. The intense interest in this symposium took us a little by surprise. We had expected a small, tightly focused collection of papers, but were happily overwhelmed with abstracts from across Australia and neighbouring countries. This suggests that the timing is right for these discussions.

The symposium is organised by Sally K. May (Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit, Griffith University), Ursula Frederick (the Australian National University), Paul S.C. Taçon (Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit, Griffith University) and Jo McDonald (Centre for Rock Art Research + Management, University of Western Australia). Rock Art Network members Taçon and McDonald will be giving opening and closing papers; Rock Art Network member Richard Kuba will also be giving a paper. The symposium is sponsored by Paul S.C. Taçon’s Australian Research Council Laureate Project grant ‘Australian rock art history, conservation and Indigenous well-being’ (FL160100123), Griffith University’s Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University’s School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science, as well as Australia ICOMOS through the National Scientific Committee for Rock Art and the Indigenous Conference Fund.

We hope that this symposium inspires reflection and re-evaluation and helps to guide continuing collaborative rock art research, conservation and management programs into the future. For more details and to view the preliminary program go to:
https://www.griffith.edu.au/griffith-centre-social-cultural-research/place-evolution-and-rock-art-heritage-unit/rock-art-histories-symposium

You can also follow the symposium on social media: #rockarthistories.

UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology

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