by Peter Robinson
Editor, Bradshaw Foundation
'Exploring the wonders of cave art in Australia' - was based on a radio interview with Professor Paul S.C. 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), joined by Professor Josephine McDonald, Rio Tinto Chair of Rock Art Studies, ARC Future Fellow (2011-2016), Director of the Centre for Rock Art Research & Management at the University of Western Australia, and First Nations colleague Wayne Brennan, archaeologist & Interpretive Officer at National Parks and Wildlife Service. The conversation covered fundamental aspects of rock art, perhaps the most salient of which was the importance of the art within the indigenous communities and the ensuing dialogue with scientists. Both Paul and Josephine are members of the Rock Art Network.
Tom McClintock, Research Associate at the Getty Conservation Institute and a member of the Rock Art Network - 'Studying the Source of Dust Using a Simple and Effective Methodology' - describes his research in Australia in conservation and site management. Here he was enlisted by Njanjma Rangers, an indigenous ranger group dedicated to natural and cultural resource management based in the community of Gunbalanya in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Conversations I have had with all members of the Rock Art Network reinforce this point. So it was interesting to observe a deviation from the rule in recent press coverage, this time in the guise of Western-centrism and Eurocentrism.
La Lindosa Guavire in the Chiribiquete National Park.
We duly posted a story on our Latest News describing the rock art and how it was being studied by archaeologists and anthropologists, and the implementation of preservation measures by the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH) declaring the Serranía La Lindosa a protected Archaeological Area of Colombia (AAP), covering an area of 893 hectares. With La Lindosa, Colombia now has 21 protected archaeological areas.
No. 41 on 'Rock Art on UNESCO’s World Heritage List' by Pilar Fatás Monforte, Directora Museo Nacional y Centro de Investigación de Altamira. We look forward to working with Judith and her colleagues from GIPRI.
However, later in the year, reputable newspapers and magazines in Europe and in other western cultures ran articles with titles such as 'Sistine Chapel of the ancients' and 'Rock art discovered in remote Amazon forest', claiming the glamorous discovery of one of the world’s largest collections of prehistoric rock art 'in an as-yet unnamed site' deep in the Amazon rainforest.
Simon Sebag Montefiore points out in his new book 'Written in History; Letters that Changed the World' that Christopher Columbus, who was famed for the discovery of America, that in fact 'it was only new to Europeans: civilisations unknown to Europe had thrived there for millenia.' Lessons have been learnt from the past. One is reminded of the early interpretation of the White Lady of Brandberg in Namibia by Abbe Henri Breuil who declared that the central figure was a depiction of a graceful and poised young woman of Minoan or Cretan origin whose presence was explained by an ancient Mediterranean visit to this southerly realm of Africa; a tracing of the White Lady by Harald Pager clearly shows 'her' to be a man. So I always find it odd when such lessons seem to be forgotten every now and then.