Rock art research in Australia 1974–94

23rd January 2014

Mike J. Morwood and Claire E. Smith


In 1969, John Mulvaney wrote that:

It is difficult for a prehistorian to assess Aboriginal art. Until recently it possessed no time depth … Neither can an Australian prehistorian escape the conditioning influence of ethnographic data. A prehistorian may infer the methods of application or techniques of engraving from observation, but comment concerning motivation and meaning is beyond the scope of normal archaeological activities.

Despite some later qualification (Mulvaney 1975:275), this statement aptly sums up feeling towards archaeological research on rock art that existed in the archaeological community in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Rock art was seen as irrelevant to the major issues then being addressed by Australian archaeology. Times have changed.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Morwood, M.J. and C.E. Smith
Rock art research in Australia 1974–94
December 1994
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