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Rock Art of the Kimberley
Rock Art of the Kimberley
Rock Art of the Kimberley
Rock Art Gallery
Rock Art of the Kimberley

The remote coastline of north western Australia was probably the first landing site on this continent, as groups crossed by boat from Timor some 60,000 years ago. At some point, these groups began to decorate the rocks with a variety of rock art.

The earliest visible Kimberley rock art paintings are known as 'Naturalistic', followed by the Gwion motifs, formerly known as 'Bradshaws'. Another style is the schematized human forms of the 'Static Polychrome', as well as the Painted Hand motifs. Finally, the Wanjina paintings which depict the spirit ancestors and their representation in anthropomorphic form, forming a continuous Aboriginal tradition dating to the last 4000 years.

Researchers interpret the change in rock art styles in the Kimberley as a response to the social and cultural adaptations triggered by the changing climate and rising sea levels. Paintings of human figures with new technologies such as spear-throwers might show how people adapted their hunting style to the changing environment and the availability of different types of food.

The Kimberley region in Western Australian
Figure 1
© Photograph
Hugh Brown
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
Figure 2
© Photograph
Bradshaw Foundation
 
Traditional Owner Ian Waina with the kangaroo painting that was dated between 17,500 and 17,100 years old
Figure 3
© Peter Veth and the
Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation
 
Wanjina paintings which depict the spirit ancestors and their representation in anthropomorphic form, forming a continuous Aboriginal tradition dating to the last 4000 years
Figure 4
© Photograph
Bradshaw Foundation
 
Cupules, or circular man-made hollows, ground into a dark mineral coating at a rock art site on the Drysdale River, Balanggarra country
Figure 5
© Photograph
Damien Finch
 
Painted Hand motifs
Figure 6
© Photograph
Bradshaw Foundation

Rock Art of the Kimberley
(Photographs above) Figure 1. The Kimberley region in Western Australia; Figure 2. Gwion motif rock art; Figure 3. Traditional Owner Ian Waina with the kangaroo painting that was dated between 17,500 and 17,100 years old; Figure 2. Gwion motif rock art; Figure 4. Wanjina paintings which depict the spirit ancestors and their representation in anthropomorphic form, forming a continuous Aboriginal tradition dating to the last 4000 years; Figure 5. Cupules, or circular man-made hollows, ground into a dark mineral coating at a rock art site on the Drysdale River, Balanggarra country; Figure 6. Painted Hand motifs.

It is thought that the Kimberley region is host to Australia’s oldest known rock paintings, at least 17,300 years old. The region also contains engravings which are thought to be earlier than the paintings, such as the rock art sites on Balanggarra Country in the northeast of the Kimberley.

Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
For the paintings, the age has been determined by new dating techniques; researchers from the Rock Art Dating and Kimberley Visions project together with Balanggarra Traditional Owners successfully dated the 17,300 year old kangaroo painting. This painting is on the Unghango clan estate in Balanggarra Country in the north-east Kimberley. The kangaroo motif is painted in the style of the older rock art paintings in the Kimberley with long irregular brush strokes. The 2 metre 'naturalistic' looking animal is painted on the surface of a collapsed rock shelter ceiling, painted in ochre used from iron oxide in a red mulberry colour. The fossilised mud wasp nests built under and over the painting allowed the researchers to date the art.

For the engravings, new research from Rock Art Australia aims to date the engravings. Some of the rocks themselves are covered with natural, glaze-like mineral coatings. These deposits are less than a centimetre thick, yet they have detailed internal structures, featuring alternating light and dark layers of different minerals, and methods have been developed to reliably date the formation of these coatings and provide age brackets for any associated engravings. Moreover, it was also possible to match layers found in samples collected at rock shelters some distance apart; radiocarbon dating suggests these layers were deposited around the same time, showing their formation is not specific to particular rock shelters, but controlled by environmental changes on a regional scale, revealing an understanding the climate and environments in which the artists lived.

Kimberley Rock Art Gallery

Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
©Bradshaw Foundation
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation
 
Kimberley Austalia Rock Art Paintings Gwion Gwion
© Bradshaw Foundation

Rock Art Links

→ Australia Rock Art Index
→ Introduction to the Australia Rock Art Archive
→ Rock Art of the Kimberley
→ Dating the Rock Art of the Kimberley
→ Australia's Oldest Known Rock Art
→ Film - Griffith University's Laureate
→ ABC Radio National 'Nightlife'
→  Experts rush to map fire-hit rock art
→ The aftermath of fire damage to important rock art at the Baloon Cave tourist destination, Carnarvon Gorge, Queensland, Australia
→ Studying the Source of Dust
→ The Kimberley
→ Out in the Back Country - Hugh Brown → Bradshaw Foundation
→ Rock Art Network

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