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Hidden history: Aboriginal rock art in the Kimberley amongst the oldest in the world

1. Older than previously thought

Researchers have found evidence that the rock art in the Kimberley is from the ice age, 16,000 years old.

2. Cutting-edge dating methods

The research team determines how old the rock art was by dating ancient wasp nests that had been built on top of it.

“What we’re actually dating is when the sand was last exposed to sunlight,” the researcher explains, “which would have been when the mud wasp picked the grains up on the riverbed. We don’t know how long it was between the time the painting was painted, and the time the wasps came along.”

3. Going back in time

By analyzing the age and style of rock art, the researchers have been able to paint a clearer picture of how Indigenous cultures developed, because the art style changes over time.

Wanjina-style motifs dated to about 5000 years ago, the time when sea levels stabilized. As sea levels rose, land in the Kimberley region was lost, forcing the population to find new ways of ordering themselves.

4. Sharing the significance outside of Dreamtime

The study was also an opportunity to work closely with the Traditional Owners [Aborigines] of the land and to help them share the significance of their art.

5. Working hand in hand

“One of the main things for this project is that we wanted it to be hand in hand with the Traditional Owners,” Westaway says.


Source: Hidden history: Aboriginal rock art in the Kimberley amongst the oldest in the world
© Special Broadcasting Service, Australia

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