A multi-technique approach to contextualising painted rock art in the Central Pilbara of Western Australia: Integrating in-field and laboratory methods

A multi-technique approach to contextualising painted rock art in the Central Pilbara of Western Australia: Integrating in-field and laboratory methods Journal Article

Quaternary International

  • Author(s): Huntley, Jillian, Wallis, Lynley A., Stephenson, Birgitta, Aboriginal Corporation, Karlka Nyiyaparli, Davis, Annabelle
  • Published: 2020
  • ISBN: 1040-6182

Abstract: For nearly 70 years scientific techniques have been routinely applied in archaeological research. Yet some artefacts hold such cultural significance that sampling is inappropriate, restricting the methods that can be brought to bear in their analysis. Such restrictions often apply to rock art, especially where research is directed by the indigenous peoples who have stewardship over not only the site fabric, but its inseparable cultural context. Here we report a multi-technique program of in-field and laboratory-based analyses to describe the materiality of a painted rock art site in Nyiyaparli country, in the Central Pilbara region of Western Australia. The relationship between the rock art, nearby potential pigment sources and evidence for ochre processing at the site was investigated using in situ portable X-Ray Fluorescence and optical microscopy, with interpretations aided by field and laboratory-based residue analysis of grinding related stone artefacts and X-Ray Powder Diffraction of potential ochre sources. Our findings provide an example of the nuanced interpretations that scientific analyses can add to rock art investigations. Our work suggests that local materials were used in the production of painted art and that ochre processing was ubiquitous at the site and other nearby rockshelters. Combined with the placement of rock art in a hidden context within the site, we suggest the panels at BBH15-01 were part of in-group events and that art and ochre processing in the Baby Hope study area were part of everyday activities.

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Suggested Citation
Huntley, Jillian, Wallis, Lynley A., Stephenson, Birgitta, Aboriginal Corporation, Karlka Nyiyaparli, Davis, Annabelle, 2020, A multi-technique approach to contextualising painted rock art in the Central Pilbara of Western Australia: Integrating in-field and laboratory methods, Journal Article, viewed 28 November 2023, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=18125.

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