Preliminary underwater survey for rock engravings and other sea floor sites in the Dampier Archipelago, Pilbara region, Western Australia

01st June 2002

Dortch Figure 1 AA54Charles E. Dortch

Preliminary underwater survey for prehistoric sites in the Dampier Archipelago in the Pilbara region of Western Australia had the particular aim of assessing the possibility of finding engravings (petroglyphs) on granophyre rocks outcropping on the sea floor. The numerous engraving galleries occurring among granophyre rocks on the mainland and in the archipelago’s islands include deeply weathered petroglyphs that may be of great age, suggesting that the galleries could in part pre-date sea level rise to present height. Survey at seven dive stations on granophyre rocks at depths 10-20 m below surface failed to reveal any engravings, though did confirm that some rock faces are free of marine growth. The investigative potential of underwater survey for submerged Aboriginal sites in the archipelago seems limited to petroglyphs, rock faces flaked in quarrying and perhaps indurated occupation deposits. Surge, storms, sedimentary infilling and marine conditions generally have probably obliterated or buried other kinds of sites. An economical shore-based approach is recommended for further survey.

Charles E. Dortch
Preliminary underwater survey for rock engravings and other sea floor sites in the Dampier Archipelago, Pilbara region, Western Australia
June 2002
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