Thesis abstract ‘Painted Relationships: An Archaeological Analysis of a Distinctive Anthropomorphic Rock Art Motif in Northwest Central Queensland’

30th December 2013

June Ross

BA(Hons), Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology, University of New England, Armidale, March 1997

This thesis presents a detailed description of a painted rock art assemblage focussed on a distinctive anthropomorphic motif from 60 sites in the Leichhardt, Argylla and Selwyn Ranges of the northwest Queensland highlands. The anthropomorphic motif was found to occur in two different but standardised forms, each located in different geographic contexts. The contexts and discrete distribution of this motif suggests that it may have been used to signal group identify. The standardisation of its form and its differentiation from the art of neighbouring areas further suggests that its use may have been related to a process of boundary maintenance.

 

The creation of a distinctive art style as a mechanism for maintaining group boundaries may have arisen from an increased need to negotiate predictable social interactions with other groups as the result of an increase in widespread trade throughout the Lake Eyre Basin during the last one thousand years. In particular, the large scale manufacture of axes from quarries in the study region provided the trading network with a valued economic, social and ritual resource. The art would have reaffirmed the affiliation of the inhabitants of the region to each other, while at the same time marking out their territory, thereby governing the movements or behaviour of outsiders. I suggest that the artist utilised the art system as a mechanism to achieve the desired social outcome, while the viewer responded to the art by modifying their behaviour in some manner. Used in this way, art can be a powerful social tool which provides a means to reinforce social values, manipulate human behaviour and bring about predictable social interaction.

Ross, J.
Thesis abstract 'Painted Relationships: An Archaeological Analysis of a Distinctive Anthropomorphic Rock Art Motif in Northwest Central Queensland'
December 1999
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Thesis Abstracts
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